Vis­i­tors from China flock­ing to Cal­i­for­nia

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­

As the lead­ing desti­na­tion for Chi­nese trav­el­ers to the United States, Cal­i­for­nia is pro­jected to re­ceive 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors from China in 2015 and the num­ber is ex­pected to ex­ceed 1.8 mil­lion by 2018, a 78 per­cent in­crease over 2014, a tourism in­dus­try fo­rum was told Tues­day in San Fran­cisco.

“Global Ready — that’s one thing for this room to be so­phis­ti­cated and un­der­stand how to con­nect with the Chi­nese trav­eler. We’ve got to ed­u­cate all of our $180-mil­lion in­dus­try,” Caro­line Beteta, pres­i­dent and CEO of Visit Cal­i­for­nia, told more than 500 tourism in­dus­try lead­ers at­tend­ing Visit Cal­i­for­nia’s 2016 Out­look Fo­rum.

Global Ready is an ed­u­ca­tional plat­form launched by Visit Cal­i­for­nia, a non-profit mar­ket­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion tasked with de­vel­op­ing tourism in the state by help­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s tourism in­dus­try bet­ter serve the global trav­eler.

“So ‘Global Ready!’” said Beteta, “be­cause we all know that Chi­nese are pro­lific in shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences, and word-of-mouth from friends to fam­ily is the most cru­cial con­nec­tion to suc­cess in bring­ing Chi­nese vis­i­tors to Cal­i­for­nia.”

“China re­ally is the largest over­seas mar­ket and also the fastest grow­ing mar­ket for Cal­i­for­nia,” Leona Reed, as­so­ciate vice-pres­i­dent of global mar­ket­ing with Visit Cal­i­for­nia, told China Daily. “China is prob­a­bly our largest suc­cess story. It has grown dou­ble dig­its in terms of visi­ta­tion as well as eco­nomic im­pact over the last five years.”

Cal­i­for­nia wel­comed 996,000 Chi­nese vis­i­tors in 2014, a 21.6 per­cent in­crease over 2013, mak­ing China the largest source of over­seas vis­i­tors for the state.

Chi­nese vis­i­tors spent more than $2.5 bil­lion in the state in 2014, which is more than the spend­ing of all vis­i­tors from the UK and Ja­pan, the se­cond- and third-largest over­seas mar­kets for Cal­i­for­nia.

“By 2018, we are pro­ject­ing both fig­ures to dou­ble, and by 2020, po­ten­tially triple,” said Reed, adding that “2018, for all in­tents and pur­poses, is just around the cor­ner.”

Air­lift be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and China has wit­nessed a 44 per­cent in­crease in terms of the to­tal ca­pac­ity of seats year- on- year. “It means there’s a de­mand for Cal­i­for­nia, and air­lines are re­al­iz­ing that, so they are putting in new routes and new air­craft,” said Reed.

The grow­ing mar­ket has pro­moted Visit Cal­i­for­nia to

(China) has grown dou­ble dig­its in terms of visi­ta­tion as well as eco­nomic im­pact over the last five years.”

in­crease its in­vest­ment in Chi­nese tourism by open­ing two new of­fices in Chengdu and Guangzhou this year, in ad­di­tion to Bei­jing and Shang­hai, as well as com­mit­ting $9 mil­lion in its 2015-16 fis­cal year bud­get to Chi­nese mar­ket­ing — an 80 per­cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year.

“We have dou­bled our in­vest­ment (in China) since 2011. Ev­ery year we al­most dou­ble our bud­get and we’ve gone from $800,000, which was our first year in­vest­ment, to $9 mil­lion to­day,” said Reed.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s other strate­gies in­clude telling the story di­rectly to con­sumers through chan­nels such as broad­cast and on­line TV and so­cial me­dia, and es­tab­lish­ing a strong strat­egy with the travel trade, mak­ing sure that Cal­i­for­nia is rep­re­sented by dif­fer­ent tour oper­a­tors and on­line travel agen­cies so that agents un­der­stand the di­ver­sity that Cal­i­for­nia has to of­fer, ac­cord­ing to Reed.

So­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing Weibo, the Chi­nese ver­sion of twit­ter, is an im­por­tant tool to deepen con­sumer en­gage­ment, said Beteta.

This year, Visit Cal­i­for­nia launched a so­cial cam­paign to at­tract fam­i­lies trav­el­ing to cel­e­brate the Chi­nese New Year in Cal­i­for­nia. San Fran­cisco be­gan cel­e­brat­ing the Chi­nese New Year in the 19th cen­tury and has the big­gest Chi­nese New Year cel­e­bra­tion out­side of China.

“We are so for­tu­nate to have an abun­dance of cul­tural con­nec­tions to that ef­fort,” she said.

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