Arizona tourism industry seeks higher China profile

Updated: 2014-01-22 11:39

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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With natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, and cultural offerings that include cowboys and American Indians, the state of Arizona is a favored US travel destination. Getting it to be top of mind for high-spending Chinese tourists, however, is another matter.

"Compared with Los Angeles or Las Vegas, those tourist sites in Arizona remain relatively unknown destinations for the most Chinese tourists, especially for those first-time visitors," said Susan Bong, chief operating officer of, a California-based travel agency that provides a North America-wide selection of Chinese-English bilingual tour products and services.

To attract more tourists from China, an increasingly free-spending group, the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) last week launched its first ever roadshow in three Chinese cities.

The Jan 13-17 event, held in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, was coordinated by the AOT and its local China representative. The goal was to bring Arizona tourism suppliers together with China-based trade and media representatives.

"We targeted the first-tier cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai to conduct sessions with tour operators to familiarize them with our state - not only the iconic scenery such as Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon but also our many offerings from American Indian culture to western cowboy culture," AOT media relations manager Kimberly Todd said.

The five-day trip included informational training sessions and media luncheons in each city, Todd said. It was promoted as an opportunity for travel industry professionals to meet with some 150 travel agents and tour operators and 35 media outlets.

Chinese visitors are the fastest growing segment of US tourism. The US welcomed 1.47 million Chinese visitors in 2012, up 35 percent from 2011. China is the US's seventh-largest inbound tourism market, according to the latest data from Brand USA, a public private partnership which promotes international travel to the US.

China also is one of Arizona's biggest-spending tourist groups, according to Todd. "Visa credit card spending in Arizona by Chinese nationals has increased more than 240 percent in the past five years from 2008 to 2012," she said.

To build a recognizable Arizona brand on the China market, AOT opened an office in the country last March.

"The China office is focusing on trade and media to inform the consumer about Arizona while providing the means to get here," Todd said. "We are working on a series of trade shows, sales missions, and familiarization tours in China as well as our ongoing marketing efforts."

Todd said Chinese tourists are looking for new places to visit and she believes Arizona is the perfect place.

"We are a year round destination and have a lot to offer the upscale traveler - luxury resorts, spas, golf and golf events such as the Phoenix Open, as well as upscale events such as the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction," she said. "We are targeting key operators and media to help us tell our story to high-end travelers."

Bong of said the company has seen the number of Chinese arrivals grow solidly in recent years. "Usually, the top choices for the Chinese visitors are the east coast and west coast tours," Bong said. "In the upcoming Chinese New Year, the Hawaii route is becoming extremely hot."

The Grand Canyon is one of the biggest tourist attractions for Chinese travelers, she said.

 Arizona tourism industry seeks higher China profile

Participants from Arizona tourism industry introduce the state's latest tourist information to Chinese travel buyers and leading media in Guangzhou during a five-day China roadshow held by Arizona Office of Tourism. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 01/22/2014 page2)