More visas for China boon for US ho­tels

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Changes to the United States’ visa poli­cies are at­tract­ing more Chi­nese tourists, in­clud­ing to lesser­known des­ti­na­tions, pro­vid­ing a boost for ho­tels, an in­dus­try ex­pert has said.

“While the gate­way US cities are re­ceiv­ing ev­er­in­creas­ing vis­i­tors, such as in New York City and Los An­ge­les, lesser-known spots are be­lieved to be wit­ness­ing a dras­tic in­crease in Chi­nese tourists,” said Lind­sey Ue­ber­roth, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pre­ferred Ho­tels and Re­sorts, which pro­vides sales, mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion ser­vices to in­de­pen­dent luxury ho­tels.

“There’s a huge op­por­tu­nity for the in­dus­try, and we’re very ex­cited about it.”

Since US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping signed an agree­ment late last year to ex­tend tourist and busi­ness visas from one year to 10 years, and stu­dent visas from one year to five years, there has been a marked spike in in­ter­est.

The US State Depart­ment has seen a 41 per­cent in­crease in Chi­nese ap­pli­ca­tions for US visas, ac­cord­ing to Christo­pher Thomp­son, pres­i­dent and CEO of Brand USA.

Brand USA — orig­i­nally the Cor­po­ra­tion for Travel Pro­mo­tion — is a public-pri­vate part­ner­ship, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment match­ing any fund­ing it re­ceives from the pri­vate sec­tor, up to a max­i­mum of $100 mil­lion. It was cre­ated in 2009, when Congress passed the Travel Pro­mo­tion Act to pro­mote tourism.

More than two mil­lion Chi­nese vis­ited the US last year, and the US Depart­ment of Com­merce es­ti­mates more than seven mil­lion more will ar­rive by 2021.

The US is­sued 351,650 busi­ness and tourist visas to Chi­nese cit­i­zens in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, a year-on-year in­crease of 68.2 per­cent.

Ue­ber­roth said the in­crease is partly the rea­son why Pre­ferred Ho­tels and Re­sorts is try­ing to pro­mote its brand recog­ni­tion and build loy­alty pro­grams in China. The com­pany, based in Chicago, rep­re­sents 650 ho­tels, re­sorts and ser­viced res­i­dences world­wide, and serves as a reser­va­tion and mar­ket­ing plat­form for prop­er­ties.

To boost recog­ni­tion among the Chi­nese, Pre­ferred Ho­tels and Re­sorts have en­tered into part­ner­ship with Air China to of­fer mem­bers of the air­line’s Phoenix Miles pro­gram up to 1,600 miles when stay­ing at se­lected prop­er­ties.

“The strate­gic al­liance is part of Pre­ferred’s cam­paign to raise aware­ness of its brand among China’s out­bound travel mar­ket,” said An­thony Ross, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the com­pany’s Asia Pa­cific, Mid­dle East and Africa sec­tors. “Our part­ner­ship with Air China’s award-win­ning Phoenix Miles pro­gram will bring great visibility to our global net­work of in­de­pen­dent ho­tels, and al­low us to ex­tend ad­di­tional benefits to both con­sumers and China’s greater travel com­mu­nity.”

He added that the grow­ing num­ber of flights be­tween sec­ond- and third-tier cities in China and des­ti­na­tions in the US is also a pos­i­tive sig­nal.

The com­pany has re­cently launched Pre­ferred Res­i­dences, a col­lec­tion of vil­las, bun­ga­lows, con­do­mini­ums and other units avail­able at luxury ho­tels and re­sorts, tar­geted at fam­i­lies.

“By defin­ing ho­tels based on ex­pe­ri­ences ver­sus brands or stars, we’re cre­at­ing stronger po­si­tion­ing for our mem­ber ho­tels and ex­pand­ing their op­por­tu­ni­ties to reach more guests,” Ue­ber­roth said.

He said the com­pany will in­tro­duce up­dated ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns in China over the com­ing months.

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