Chinese tourists look­ing for the au­then­tic USA

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

Try a lo­cally fla­vored meal, get your shoes shined, mail a post­card or just grab some gro­ceries. More and more Chinese fam­ily trav­el­ers are opt­ing to taste the fla­vor of old Los An­ge­les at a leg­endary farmers market.

“They are in­creas­ingly open to ex­plore real sto­ries of Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said Lexie Wei, a Los An­ge­les-based tourism con­sul­tant. “Chinese tourists’ in­ter­est and tastes have im­proved. They want sto­ries.”

Wei’s re­cent WeChat blog on the Orig­i­nal Farmers Market, an old farmers market in Los An­ge­les, has gen­er­ated more than 60,000 views in just a few weeks.

An ar­ti­cle in­tro­duc­ing the market’s his­tory and sto­ries be­hind its shops and restau­rants turned out to be a hit with the Chinese au­di­ence.

“It’s not just an av­er­age farmers market. It has a rich his­tory. It is a mi­cro­cosm of the Amer­i­can cul­ture, and rep­re­sents the vi­cis­si­tudes of Los An­ge­les and even the his­tory of Chinese im­mi­gra­tion,” said Wei.

Es­tab­lished in 1934, the ope­nair market has more than 100 dif­fer­ent shops, restau­rants and gro­cers. It evolved from a tra­di­tional farmers market, where farmers sold their veg­eta­bles and pro­duce to lo­cal cus­tomers, to a tourist des­ti­na­tion. Two Chinese restau­rants have been there for decades.

“The market is a unique place with a lot of his­tory and charm. It’s a cul­tural land­mark in Los An­ge­les,” said Mar­itza Cer­rato, mar­ket­ing and tourism spe­cial­ist with the Orig­i­nal Farmers Market.

“Ninety per­cent of the shops are fam­ily owned and op­er­ated. You can meet the own­ers, and in many shops you can see multi­gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies work­ing side-by-side,” said Cer­rato. “Lo­cal peo­ple come here and sit at the same ta­ble ev­ery day, read news­pa­pers and talk about the news with their friends. This is a place for vis­i­tors and lo­cals to meet.”

Meet­ing lo­cal peo­ple and learn­ing sto­ries of hu­man in­ter­est are the top rea­sons the farmers market is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity among Chinese trav­el­ers.

“There is a sandwich shop run by the orig­i­nal owner in his 90s, a toy store op­er­ated by a vet­eran and an Asian res­tau­rant run by an Amer­i­can cou­ple who had lived in Sin­ga­pore for many years,” said Wei.

The US tour op­er­a­tors need to dig deep and present these sto­ries to Chinese vis­i­tors, be­cause in the fu­ture, trav­el­ers aged 25 to 35 will make up the ma­jor­ity of overseas Chinese tourists and they tend to fo­cus on the cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, said Wei.

“A com­bi­na­tion of na­ture, sto­ries and ur­ban devel­op­ment will mostly res­onate with Chinese vis­i­tors,” she said.

The Orig­i­nal Farmers Market started notic­ing the in­crease in Chinese vis­i­tors a year ago.


Chinese vis­i­tors get a taste of old Los An­ge­les at the Orig­i­nal Farmers Market.

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