Reporter Journal / Chang Jun

Los Angeles outdoing itself when it comes to tourism from China

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-09-26 11:29

An official at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board said her organization's forecast early this year on inbound Chinese tourists to the City of Angels seemed "outdated".

Instead of making yearly plan for China, a half-year strategy should be used by the board to accurately depict market performance, said Patti MacJennett, the board's senior vice-president of business affairs. She spoke at the 2017 World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit, which was held in Los Angeles Sept 19-20.

Following strong momentum in 2016 - a year in which the number of Chinese visitors to LA increased by more than 21.9 percent, making LA the first US city to exceed 1 million tourists from China - more Chinese visitors are flying into LA, which makes the prospects in 2017 even brighter.

Among the city's record 7.1 million international visitors in 2016, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year, Chinese visitors accounted for 75 percent of that growth, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

In the last year, China surpassed Canada as the No. 2 source of international visitors to Los Angeles, behind Mexico, according to the board.

Under the theme of "Impact of Globalization on World Tourism City Development", the conference set an agenda around four themes - solutions to challenges faced by tourism cities; competitive strengths and brand-building of tourism cities; policy environment that promotes tourism investment; and China's outbound tourism: new trend and market dynamics - to brainstorm and solicit solutions to issues such as travel security, marketing, infrastructure, resources and sustainable development.

Chen Jining, chairman of WTCF and acting mayor of Beijing, expressed his hope that a deeper understanding of globalization would be obtained through the "insightful discussion during the summit".

He also noted that a more open collaborative platform should be established as a result of the summit to promote a more inclusive and balanced globalization in favor of robust tourism growth worldwide.

Los Angeles has established an exemplary role across settings for all world tourism cities in terms of attracting and serving international clients.

Its tourism board continues to invest in the China market.

"Los Angeles recognized the vast potential of the inbound Chinese tourism market early on, as we were the first municipal tourism marketing organization in the US to open a full-time office in China (Beijing) back in 2006," Wooden said. The board opened a fourth China office in Chengdu recently, following those in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Infrastructure wise, there are currently 68 non-stop weekly flights from China to Los Angeles, with a weekly average of 21,510 seats. Xiamen Airlines and American Airlines will offer direct flights in November.

"As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles offers an endless array of iconic experiences that are attractive to the Chinese traveler, such as the Hollywood sign, Universal Studios Hollywood, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Boulevard or seeing the Los Angeles Lakers play at Staples Center," said Ernest Wooden, president and CEO of the board, who chaired the summit.

Song Yu, secretary-general of WTCF, referred to Chinese tourists as "habitual shoppers". According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Chinese travelers spent $261 billion abroad in 2016, a 12 percent increase over 2015, and a new record for outbound tourist spending.

With some 135 million Chinese traveling abroad in 2016, Chinese tourists spent more than any other country's outbound travelers and already comprise the largest outbound travel market since 2012. Spending by Chinese tourists has grown in double digits each year since 2004, said UNWTO.

In the LA area, visitors from China are provided ample opportunities to go on shopping sprees, especially for luxury brands and designer commodities. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills offers a high concentration of elite boutiques and luxury stores.

LA has many cultural attractions, including museums.

"We find that 42 percent of Chinese travelers visit our cultural institutions such as The Getty Center, LACMA and The Broad because history, heritage and iconic masterpieces appeal to them very much," Wooden said.

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