California fixes tourism marketing spotlight on China

Updated: 2013-02-27 12:15

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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California fixes tourism marketing spotlight on China

Tourists visit Chinatown in San Francisco. California has aimed to make China the largest overseas source of tourists. Chen Jia / China Daily

With a $1.6 million marketing campaign, California is gearing up for another surge in Chinese tourists this year.

"We have seen double-digit growth from China year over year, and the number of Chinese visitors to California is expected to increase 113 percent between 2011 and 2015," said Caroline Beteta, CEO of Visit California, a nonprofit group that handles marketing for the state's o-cial Travel and Tourism Commission.

"Visit California will be investing an additional $1 million in new direct-to-consumer advertising, bringing its total China marketing budget to $1.6 million," she said of the China Ready initiative.

The group will take part in Governor Jerry Brown's trade mission to China scheduled for April 8-15. Brown, who also led the state from 1975 to 1983, will be visiting China for the first time as a governor. He'll be joined by a 50-member delegation

The marketing push is due to China's emergence as the fastest-growing, biggest-spending source of foreign tourists for California. Official data show the state received 517,000 Chinese tourists in 2011 while 708,000 were projected to have visited last year, spending $2.4 million.

According to research commissioned by Visit California, two-thirds of adults in the top 25 percent of Chinese income earners who plan to travel abroad in one to two years said the United States is their No 1 destination. Among those would-be US visitors, the Golden State tops.

Of the $102 billion spent on travel and tourism last year in California, 20 percent was from foreign visitors. The industry supports 893,000 jobs and generates $6.3 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Visit California's China Ready push is meant to promote California and educate the industry, with the goal of keeping the state top of mind among Chinese considering an overseas trip.

"Although TV offers the greatest individual reach, the online collective helps promote California to Chinese travelers," said Jennifer Dyke, research director at Hall & Partners. "Online is also the most influential medium, with destination websites and search engines rising to the top."

Chinese travelers are particular about websites they rely on for travel information, the research showed. Two-thirds prefer search engine Baidu to research leisure trips, followed by and microblogging service Sina Weibo.

Researchers also found that avid Chinese travelers plan in detail and like to take in a lot of sights at their destination.

"US travel organizations and vendors need to gain understanding of the China media landscape, social-media equivalents and media consumption habits to help their businesses capitalize on the influx of Chinese travelers," said Viveca Chan, chairman and CEO of WE Marketing Group, an advertising agency that represents global brands in China.

As Visit California launches direct-to-consumer marketing in China, cooperation with the travel industry at home is crucial to developing California's brand, said Linsey Gallagher, head of international marketing at the Wine Institute of California.

"From veteran marketers to those who want to learn more about how this market works, in-market experts will help decipher the complexities of the China market," she said

(China Daily 02/27/2013 page7)