Americans keep coming back for more of China

Updated: 2013-01-21 11:51

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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 Americans keep coming back for more of China

Promotional material at the New York Times Travel Show.  [Caroline Berg / China Daily]


These days, everyone's talking about China, with more Americans traveling to China for business and leisure than ever before.

According to a study by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries at the US Department of Commerce, the number of US tourists traveling to China rose dramatically from 562,000 in 2003 to 1.067 million in 2004, and in 2012, the number was around 1.5 million.

"Prior to 2004, China really didn't have a tourism marketing presence in North America," said Paul Cohen, president of travel marketing company Partner Concepts.

During a seminar on the weekend at the New York Times Travel Show in New York, Cohen cited the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and 2010 World Expo in Shanghai as the driving forces behind China's rising popularity as a tourist destination. "It wasn't too long ago that people knew nothing about China," said Mark Grundy, president of Wendy Wu Tours. "But now, when you turn on the news or watch television, pretty much every day you hear something about China, and invariably most of it is positive."

Increasingly, Grundy said, he finds his clients return for a second, third or even fourth time to China. "China was once considered a one-time trip," Grundy added. "But people go, they see it's a beautiful country with so much to do and explore, and they want to go back."

According to Cohen, emphasis is now shifting toward promoting the nature, outdoors and adventure sides of China.

Locations growing in popularity include national parks, such as Jiuzhaigou "Valley of Nine Villages" in Sichuan province, and also the mountains and forests of Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar.

Apart from the culture, ecology and history found in China's distinct provinces and regions, Grundy believes it is the general welcoming nature of the Chinese people that really makes the country shine.

"When you're just out on the street, the Chinese people will come up to you and engage you," Grundy said. "They're very friendly people and they like talking with you."

LaDonna Allen, sales manager for Nexus Holidays, which specializes in China travel packages, believes the most important marketing tool has been the rave reviews generated by travelers.

"You can tell that all of the local Chinese people are really friendly to travelers," Allen said, adding that the constant reinforcement of their friendly atmosphere for travelers helps spread the word back home.

China is also regarded as a compelling travel destination because it is more affordable than the average European trip, while still offering an eclectic range of tour options.

"From a travel agent's perspective, I can book you a $699 cruise out of Venice and do Europe, but I've got to get you to pay $2,000 in airfare to get you there first, whereas in China I can send you on a really great tour for 12 days for $2,299 complete with airfare out of the west coast," said Allen, who has spent 23 years as a travel agent. "It's a phenomenal difference."