Washington courting Chinese tourists

Updated: 2016-09-29 11:36

By China Daily in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Washington is about to get more China-friendly.

Representatives from hotels, restaurants, museums, airports and other tourism-related industries across the greater DC area each got a checklist of things they could do to help make their operations more Chinese friendly, as they gathered at this year's Destination DC Global Marketplace conference Welcome China, on Tuesday in Washington.

For the first time, Destination DC has hosted a conference focusing on the Chinese tourist market. The gathering was also part of the Welcome China program initiated by Destination DC recently to help Washington better accommodate Chinese visitors.

With record arrivals of around 300,000 visitors from China last year, Washington has witnessed a 635 percent growth in Chinese visitors over the past 10 years, according to Scott Johnson, president of Travel Marketing Insights.

"One out of every nine Chinese visitors that comes to the United States actually comes to Washington," said Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination DC. "So not only are we trying to grow the number of Chinese coming to Washington but also the number coming to the United States."

"Clearly, China is going to outpace all other markets in the next five years," Johnson said, showing a graphic predicting Chinese arrivals increasing 96 percent for the next five years compared to India, ranking the second, with about a 30 percent increase.

"We're always asked what we're doing as a destination not only to make those Chinese visiting us feel more welcomed but to become more of an international destination," Ferguson said. "Sometimes it's as simple as offering hot water with green tea."

Through the program, they want to offer the tourism industry a way to learn about Chinese culture, incorporate Chinese customs into their offerings and effectively communicate with Chinese visitors, Ferguson said.

"This is our first entrance into a certification program, so we're going to do a lot to promote the program out to the customers," said Theresa Belpulsi, vice-president of tourism and visitors services at Destination DC.

To earn Welcome China certification, the business must offer a at least three of a list of 12 requirements, such as having Chinese social media accounts, providing Chinese subtitles on videos and audio tours in Chinese.

Belpulsi said they were working to build content and spread word about the quality of their products, "not just about the museums that are here but all the other cultural experiences that they can have".

The goal is to attract about 500,000 Chinese visitors by 2020, she said.

Mavis Zhang, vice-president of SinoMedia, and Eagle Yi, director of business development of WeChat, made a presentation on how to market to the Chinese tourist.

Yuan Yuan in Washington contributed to the story.