Spring agency flourishes with travelers to US

Updated: 2013-07-17 10:44

By Wang Jun in Los Angeles (China Daily)

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 Spring agency flourishes with travelers to US

Jane Huang's Shanghai Spring International Travel Service USA Inc has been benefiting from increasing travel demands between China and the United States. Wang Jun / China Daily

It's a challenging time for some China-based tour operators who focus on travelers from the United State. The bird-flu scare, rising prices for consumer goods - one of the top interests for tourists - and the still recovering US economy that stems spending on vacations can make the country a less attractive travel destination.

But travel to the US from China is in a much better position, says Jane Huang, president of Shanghai Spring International Travel Service USA Inc. "Traveling in the US is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for many Chinese," she said, adding that in China, traveling abroad "brings glory to people and is considered to give travelers a lot of 'face.'"

Huang said she feels at ease in the travel market's current turmoil, and that might be due to her surviving the tough start she had when she helped launch her company more than three decades ago.

In 1981, residents of the Shanghai Zunyi community put their money together, 3,000 yuan (about $485), and to start a travel service - Shanghai Spring Travel Service Inc. It was one of more than 20 small businesses the community started around that time, and it's the only one that has survived.

Last year, Shanghai Spring Travel's revenue was 1.3 billion yuan (about $200 million), making it the No 1 tour operator in China. In 2005, the company became the only China-based travel agent with its own airline when it added Shanghai Spring Airlines, with flights to Japan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

Huang said Shanghai Spring Travel is one of the few Chinese travel services that had the vision to focus early on the US market, opening its first office in Sacramento, California, in 1992. Huang came to the US two years later to oversee the operation.

"Our founder, Wang Zhenghua, told me the most important thing is to obey the US laws and respect local rules, because we wanted to build a built-to-last company," she said.

Huang and her colleagues found that Los Angeles has more travelers to China than Sacramento, San Francisco and New York, so they moved the office to Southern California and started a joint venture with several local tour operators. In 1996, Shanghai Spring International Travel Service USA acquired those partners and became sole owner.

Huang has expanded her team to 15 people from two. She said what she's proudest of is that the US operation hasn't taken any investment from the parent company in Shanghai, and last year sent 27 million yuan (about $4.4 million) net profit to Shanghai.

Shanghai Spring International Travel Service USA now has two offices in Southern California, one in New York and recently opened one in Salt Lake City, Utah, to handle increasing tourism for nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Travelers to the US make up 70 percent of Shanghai Spring Travel USA's business and travel to China is 30 percent. Huang said she has been talking with Costco Wholesale Corporation, the US membership-only merchandise-warehouse club, about offering its members trips to China, which she said would give her company a big boost.

Huang said she seeks to provide a quality tour operation. "We don't bring our guests to commission-based shopping stops," she said. "We are always a player on the high-end."

On a typical trip to China, travelers see the terracotta warriors in Xi'an, the Great Wall in Beijing and giant pandas in Sichuan, according to Huang. "We want to offer what we're proud of in China," she said.


(China Daily USA 07/17/2013 page2)