China cast in role of tourism hero

Updated: 2013-04-15 10:41

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

 China cast in role of tourism hero

A dancer performs a traditional dance at Disneyland in California. The Golden State has launched a campaign in China to attract more tourists to the American state. Provided to China Daily

California, home of Hollywood, has unspooled a multimedia blitz to make itself the star of Chinese tourists' adventures.

In the midst of Governor Jerry Brown's visit to China aimed at promoting trade ties with the United States, a travel-industry organization from his home state last week launched a marketing campaign that targets the thousands of Chinese who visit California each year.

Fittingly, the launch included the designation of a Chinese actress, Gao Yuanyuan, as the state's tourism ambassador to China.

"China is not only one of California's top inbound markets, it's one of the US top inbound markets as well," Caroline Beteta, president of Visit California, which promotes tourism on behalf of the state government, said Sunday. "Our campaign to bring more visitors to California not only strengthens the California economy, but the US economy as well. Putting California top of mind against other competing countries in essence puts the US top of mind."

The importance of California in relations between the two countries is in line with Premier Li Keqiang's call on Thursday, at a meeting with Brown, for China's local governments and individual US states to step up cooperation by promoting bilateral trade and investment.

Li's recommendation for building a new type of partnership follows an exhortation in early 2012 by Xi Jinping, then China's vice-president and now president. During a US visit, he called on US states and Chinese provinces to find new ways of strengthening their countries' relationship.

The Visit California campaign portrays the Golden State as the go-to destination for Chinese tourists, Brown said. The launch is the culmination of the California Travel and Tourism Commission's opening of offices in Beijing and Shanghai in 2008, according to a statement from the governor.

California is already the top US destination for Chinese visitors, who spent a record $1.5 billion in the state in 2011, or $277 per day during an average 10.6-night stay. That translates into about $2,900 per visitor, Beteta said.

China, she said, will become California's top overseas market this year.

"The number of Chinese visitors to California is expected to increase 113 percent between 2011 and 2015, for a total of 1.1 million annual arrivals in 2015," Beteta said. For 2012, California is expected to have drawn 707,773 Chinese visitors who spent $2.5 billion - a 55 percent jump from the previous year.

For California, the influx of Chinese tourists reaffirms the role of tourism in the state's economy. Travel is the No 1 service exported from the US as well as from California, Beteta said. International and domestic visitors to California and commerce tied to in-state travel generated $102.3 billion in revenue for California businesses in 2011, she said. This resulted in $2.3 billion in local taxes, $4 billion in state taxes and $4.7 billion in federal taxes. Travel-related spending directly supported 893,000 jobs in California last year. A total of $19.1 billion was spent in California in 2011 by international visitors.

To attract Chinese tourists, the state's Travel and Tourism Commission is including an extra $1 million in its annual marketing budget for China, Lynn Carpenter, the commission's vice-president of marketing, said Friday in Shanghai.

Gao Yuanyuan's appointment as California's "ambassador" for the Chinese mainland was "central" to the Visit California campaign, according to a news release. The China Ready initiative features ads for Visit California's home on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter; on billboard screens throughout Shanghai on April 8; and with online banner ads starting April 10.

Gao has been in the public eye as a movie and television actress since the mid-1990s. Her work includes 16 films and a key role in the early 2000s television series "Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre". Born in Beijing, the 33-year-old "embodies the California brand and spirit and will share her authentic passion for California with the Chinese public, inspiring their California dreams", the release said.

Gao also was a torch-bearer in the Nanjing leg of the torch relay for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

(China Daily 04/15/2013 page8)