LA rolls out the red carpet
Updated: 2014-02-27 12:08
By Wang Jun in Los Angeles (China Daily USA)
Los Angeles started a new tourism campaign on Wednesday in an ambitious effort to attract even more visitors from China, which is already the city's No 1 overseas market.
The "Nihao China" (Hello China)initiative is the brainchild of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board (LA Tourism).
Ernest Wooden, president and CEO of LA Tourism, said the goal is to bring 50 million Chinese visitors to Los Angeles by the year of 2020.
"When I met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last spring in China, he told me that he expects 200 million Chinese travelers to depart on international trips by 2020, and that the Los Angeles-China relationship was the way of the future," Wooden said.
Xi said that the people-to-people communication of tourism is the single most important way to bring down cultural barriers, Wooden recalled.
The "Nihao China" initiative, which has a "Hello LA" counterpart in China to introduce Los Angeles as a destination for Chinese travelers, features a so-called China-Ready certification program for its members.
The program will offer monthly training to its hundreds of prospective members. Topics will include China-Ready essentials, digital marketing for Chinese visitors, recruiting and managing Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese visitors' best practices. To qualify for China-Ready certification, a member, hotel or shopping center must attend at least three training sessions.
China-Ready certification requires that hotels implement Chinese language materials, post Chinese language content on their websites, provide hot water with Chinese tea and slippers for their Chinese guests and accept China UnionPay.
For restaurants, the certification requires a Chinese language menu. The restaurants have to accept China UnionPay, even though they may refuse the American Express card.
Xinjun Wang, CEO of Ivy Alliance Tourism Consulting, said Los Angeles is the most popular destination for Chinese visitors and certified vendors will be better recognized by Chinese tour operators if they are members of the program.
Los Angeles welcomed a record 570,000 visitors from China last year, which is a 21 percent increase over 2012.
On a global scope, "outbound travel from China has increased almost 10 times since 2000, and still less than 8 percent of Chinese own passports", said Sage Brennan, co-founder of China Luxury Advisors. "Chinese visitors to the US grew by more than 83 percent from 2010 to 2012. Visitation is expected to triple by 2020."
Statistics show that Chinese spend the second-highest amount of money on the road, an average of more than $6,000 per trip, only after Japanese tourists. In the next 10 years, China is expected to have 260 million more affluent consumers.
Despite the strong growth in visitors from China, many Chinese don't get to experience the best that Los Angeles has to offer, according to LA Tourism. High-quality Chinese-language information at points of interest is in short supply, and Chinese travelers lack trust and comfort, given their unique habits and preferences, it said.
Los Angeles' neighbor Orange County started a China Initiative, a similar program, last spring.