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March 13, 2016

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Campaign promotes US to Chinese tourists

THE 2016 China-US Tourism Year was officially launched on February 29 in Beijing by the US Department of Commerce and the China National Tourism Administration. The year-long tourism promotion campaign is intended to support thousands of exchange visits between the two countries and also encourage the development of more targeted tourism products and services.

Representatives from Brand USA, a public-private partnership with a mission to promote international travel to the US, were on hand in China’s capital for the start of the Tourism Year campaign. Just days earlier, the group also took part in the Guangzhou International Travel Fair, where it led a delegation of tourist attraction, hotel, shopping center and rental-car operators.

David Whitaker, chief marketing officer of Brand USA, has 25 years of experience in destination promotion. During a recent stay in Shanghai, he discussed the campaign and efforts to bring more Chinese tourists to the US.

Q: What are the new trends among Chinese tourists?

A: When you look at history, it used to be almost all groups of Chinese travelers (going to the US). But we have seen an increasing number of Chinese independent travelers. They are in smaller groups and they rent cars. They drive all over the country. It’s exciting because Chinese are very active, and they don’t go to one destination and sit on the beach all day. They want sightseeing and they want to go to the great restaurants. They want to see history and nature. Overall, they are so active in their pursuit of happiness. We love Chinese visitors.

Q: What’s unique about Chinese travelers?

A: Chinese stay almost twice as long as any other visitor on average. They stay over a week. They spend US$3,000 to US$5,000 per person. They stay longer and they spend more. When they come back, they tell their friends the American story of tourism via social media channels like WeChat.

Q: Which destinations in the United States are most popular among Chinese tourists?

A: The most popular destinations are ones that have direct flights, like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But more importantly, these are the popular arrival destinations and what we are seeing is that the Chinese are not just arriving. They arrive in one city and drive to another city. They fly within the country and visit multiple cities and have multiple itineraries. They are very mobile visitors.

Q: For the China-US Tourism Year, what are your plans to make travel in the US more convenient for Chinese tourists?

A: We have launched a training program called “China Ready.” We are working with malls, hotels, shopping centers and restaurants to help their staff (become) aware of some of the things about China, such as language information, tea and cuisine.

In addition, a lot of American universities have Chinese students, so those students can become interns or part-time employees at many of our attractions and tourist destinations.

Q: Do you have any special promotional plans this year?

A: We have a promotion this summer with Wanda to help promote our national parks. There are over 400 national parks in US and some of them are famous like Yellow Stone and the Grand Canyon. This year is the 100th anniversary of our National Park System, so we created a film called “National Parks Adventure,” for IMAX. It’s a 90-minute story about a young group going through all these parks and it is a celebration of their beauty. It will be launched in late April and will be aired and shown in Wanda theaters throughout China. Our research shows Chinese tourists are most attracted by the beautiful nature of the United States.

Q: Will more direct flights to China be launched and more convenient visa policies issued this year?

A: We have hopes on more direct flights. We fully anticipate more future cities in China will have direct ones, not just flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

I think over the next few years you will see there are airports being built all over China, so there is tremendous potential for increased service, which is very exciting. We had a meeting with the US visa application center in Guangzhou just now, and we learnt last year it approved over a million visas here. That’s amazing. The 10-year visa can help boost the number of Chinese visitors. One of our plans is to get it more efficient and reduce waiting.

Q: What’s your target in terms of the number of Chinese tourists this year?

A: Two years ago, we welcomed over two million Chinese visitors in the United States. For the last several years, there was an average 15 percent increase every year. If we keep this pace, this year, we anticipate that we will welcome close to three million Chinese visitors. China is by far our fastest growing market and is our 5th largest market in general. We expect that China will be our No.1 market in two or three years.


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