Wash­ing­ton court­ing Chi­nese tourists

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By CHINA DAILY in Wash­ing­ton Yuan Yuan in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to the story.

Wash­ing­ton is about to get more China-friendly.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from ho­tels, restau­rants, mu­se­ums, air­ports and other tourism-re­lated in­dus­tries across the greater DC area each got a check­list of things they could do to help make their op­er­a­tions more Chi­nese friendly, as they gath­ered at this year’s Des­ti­na­tion DC Global Mar­ket­place con­fer­ence Wel­come China, on Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

For the first time, Des­ti­na­tion DC has hosted a con­fer­ence fo­cus­ing on the Chi­nese tourist mar­ket. The gath­er­ing was also part of the Wel­come China pro­gram ini­ti­ated by Des­ti­na­tion DC re­cently to help Wash­ing­ton bet­ter ac­com­mo­date Chi­nese vis­i­tors.

With record ar­rivals of around 300,000 vis­i­tors from China last year, Wash­ing­ton has wit­nessed a 635 per­cent growth in Chi­nese vis­i­tors over the past 10 years, ac­cord­ing to Scott John­son, pres­i­dent of Travel Mar­ket­ing In­sights.

“One out of ev­ery nine Chi­nese vis­i­tors that comes to the United States ac­tu­ally comes to Wash­ing­ton,” said El­liott Fer­gu­son, pres­i­dent of Des­ti­na­tion DC. “So not only are we try­ing to grow the num­ber of Chi­nese com­ing to Wash­ing­ton but also the num­ber com­ing to the United States.”

“Clearly, China is go­ing to out­pace all other mar­kets in the next five years,” John­son said, show­ing a graphic pre­dict­ing Chi­nese ar­rivals in­creas­ing 96 per­cent for the next five years com­pared to In­dia, rank­ing the sec­ond, with about a 30 per­cent in­crease.

“We’re al­ways asked what we’re do­ing as a des­ti­na­tion not only to make those Chi­nese vis­it­ing us feel more wel­comed but to be­come more of an in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion,” Fer­gu­son said. “Some­times it’s as sim­ple as of­fer­ing hot wa­ter with green tea.”

Through the pro­gram, they want to of­fer the tourism in­dus­try a way to learn about Chi­nese cul­ture, in­cor­po­rate Chi­nese cus­toms into their of­fer­ings and ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate with Chi­nese vis­i­tors, Fer­gu­son said.

“This is our first en­trance into a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, so we’re go­ing to do a lot to pro­mote the pro­gram out to the cus­tomers,” said Theresa Belpulsi, vice-pres­i­dent of tourism and vis­i­tors ser­vices at Des­ti­na­tion DC.

To earn Wel­come China cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, the busi­ness must of­fer a at least three of a list of 12 re­quire­ments, such as hav­ing Chi­nese so­cial me­dia ac­counts, pro­vid­ing Chi­nese sub­ti­tles on videos and au­dio tours in Chi­nese.

Belpulsi said they were work­ing to build con­tent and spread word about the qual­ity of their prod­ucts, “not just about the mu­se­ums that are here but all the other cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences that they can have”.

The goal is to at­tract about 500,000 Chi­nese vis­i­tors by 2020, she said.

Mavis Zhang, vice-pres­i­dent of Sino Me­dia, and Ea­gle Yi, di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of WeChat, made a pre­sen­ta­tion on how to mar­ket to the Chi­nese tourist.

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