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Chinese help Los Angeles rack up record tourism numbers

By William Hennelly | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-01-13 01:04

Not only do Chinese tourists spend a lot of money in Los Angeles, they're getting younger and more independent, with fancier tastes.

"Rising trends we're seeing include increases in FIT — that's fully independent travelers — millennial travel, as well as special-interest tours like gourmet tours," Ernest Wooden Jr, CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, told China Daily on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Wooden announced on Wednesday that the city welcomed a record 41.2 million domestic visitors in 2017, and 7.1 million international visitors, which surpassed forecasts.

The biggest international gain for LA came from China, with 1.1 million visitors, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. In 2016, LA became the first American city to welcome 1 million Chinese visitors, and China remains Los Angeles' top source of overseas tourists.

"We're seeing (Chinese tourists) typically spend seven nights during their trips to Los Angeles and spend more than $1.6 billion annually (which represents more than 20 percent of all international spending)," Wooden said.

"Both of these figures are the highest among LA's overseas visitors. In the last year, we expanded our marketing efforts there with the opening of our fourth tourism office, expanding our footprint southwest to Chengdu, and we will continue to seek new opportunities there to grow our market share," he said.

"We also teamed with our partners Los Angeles World Airports to secure direct air service from underserved second-tier cities like Shenzen and Xiamen, where there is enormous opportunity for growth."

Last year, Xiamen Air began service to its namesake city in Fujian province, and to Qingdao, Shandong province. Sichuan Airlines, which also serves Chengdu and Hangzhou, started service to Jinan, Shandong province, in December 2016. Those moves added up to a 10 percent increase in seat capacity.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) also saw nearly 85 million passengers pass through its gates in 2017, an airport record.

California's largest city also bucked an overall US downturn in international visitors, as recorded in the first six months of 2017. The US saw a 4 percent decline overall (including a 5.8 percent decline from China) in international arrivals, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office of the US Commerce Department.

New York City notched a record 61.8 million visitors last year, up from 60.5 million in 2016, Chris Heywood, senior vice-president for global communications at NYC & Company, which promotes city tourism, told USA Today. But the Big Apple saw a slight decrease in foreign tourists.

New York's overall number rose 2.1 percent, but it welcomed 100,000 fewer international visitors, which was less than the forecast of a 300,000 decline.

"In 2017, we spent more time than ever traveling internationally to reinforce the fact that New York City was open for business and we welcome the world, and reinforcing our pillars of diversity and inclusion," Heywood told the newspaper.

Los Angeles took a similar approach.

In April 2017, L.A. Tourism launched an initiative called "Everyone is Welcome".

"Our 'Everyone is Welcome' campaign was the right message at the right time; it was a message of humanity and encouraged people around the globe to see the diversity of LA's faces and places," said Wooden. "In 2018, we will extend and amplify our message of 'Welcome' and intertwine a message of hospitality, fueling even greater momentum towards our north star of 50 million visitors by the year 2020."

A recent sentiment study conducted in Australia, the UK, China and Mexico confirmed the LA campaign's effectiveness, which had a major impact on visitation likelihood from China (82 percent) and Mexico (69 percent).

Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com

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