Florida enticing Chinese tourists

Updated: 2016-03-04 12:00

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Florida enticing Chinese tourists

The official tourism office of St. Petersburg and Clearwater will put out their first ad in China this spring. The coastal cities in Florida are trying to entice Chinese tourists to visit the beach destinations as they explore more cities away from the likes of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Provided to China Daily

Pinellas County in Florida is launching its first Chinese marketing campaign with ads playing up sun, sand and theme parks to entice Chinese travelers from typical US tourist destinations like New York City, Los Angeles, Washington and Hawaii.

Tourism officials of the coastal cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, which are promoted by the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater office, are hoping that the new ad campaign will lure visitors.

The cities established representation in China three years ago and have not yet seen an increase in Chinese tourists, but the tourism office is ramping up efforts.

"This is developmental - this is a long term process. We have no delusions that we will have a significant number of Chinese travelers visiting the area next year. We understand it's a process," said David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

"We did the same thing with the German market 30 years ago. When we started our office in Germany, people would look at us a little strangely and say, 'There are no German tourists here'. There weren't any yet. So this is the same thing. [The Chinese] aren't here yet, but they will be," he said.

The Chinese market is the 11th biggest international market for Florida, with more than 270,000 visiting in 2014. Because the market is an emerging one for St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the office does not yet have figures on the number of Chinese tourists visiting.

Florida enticing Chinese tourists

Downing will join other Florida tourism representatives, including those from Orlando, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, for a trade mission to China in May. They will meet with Chinese travel agencies, tour operators and travel officials, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"There's a 'second wave' that the state keeps talking about - Chinese visitation to places farther afield as they become more comfortable traveling to cities they have no heard of," Downing said. "Sure, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles - those are world capitals, but as the exploration of the United States as a tourism destination continues, places like ours will see tourism."

St. Petersburg and Clearwater are 90 minutes from Orlando, home of Disneyworld and Universal theme parks, and they also offer beaches, Downing said.

One of the difficulties with getting Chinese tourists to Florida is the lack of direct flights between the two destinations. Visitors going to Orlando or Miami need to make connecting stops at cities like Houston, Washington or New York.

"Part of what we do is air-service development. So, for example, we just worked collectively with Tampa and Tampa Airport and we landed a five-times-a-week Lufthansa direct from Frankfurt," Downing said. "Air service development is part and parcel, it's exactly what we need to do, the steps we need to take to develop this into a sustainable market for us."