Nevada proves a sure bet in other ways

Updated: 2012-06-01 07:55

By Yan Yiqi (China Daily)

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 Nevada proves a sure bet in other ways

Las Vegas is famous for its nightlife that attracts many Chinese tourists every year. Provided to China Daily

Western us State banks on special attractions to Chinese tourists

For an increasing number of Chinese tourists to the United States, gambling and spectacular live shows are no longer the only images of Las Vegas.

"More and more Chinese tourists are choosing to take a ski break or golf vacation in Las Vegas, and also a wedding trip," says Karen Chen, Nevada tourism commission's chief representative in China.

"In the past five years, we have witnessed an apparent shift in travel styles among Chinese tourists. They no longer prefer group travel that covers a great number of scenic spots but where they can only spend little time at each. They want more in-depth travel experiences," she says.

With that in mind, the commission is promoting a broader tourism in Nevada.

"Nevada has a very long and successful history of tourism with our friends here in China," says Brian K. Krolicki, lieutenant governor of Nevada. "It has been one of the most successful stories of our tourism, which is our No 1 industry.

"About 15 percent of visitors to Nevada come from outside the US. We want to grow that figure to 25 percent within a very few years, and China is a very important part of that strategy."

Krolicki says the increase in Chinese tourists to Nevada has been spectacular in recent years.

"The Chinese market today is the fastest growing outbound travel market in the world, and some smart people have estimated that by the end of 2020 it will be the largest in the world," he says.

Since there are no direct flights between Chinese cities and Nevada, and most people do not go to the US to visit Nevada alone, Krolicki says it is difficult to obtain specific data on Chinese tourists in the state.

"It was estimated that 100,000 tourism visas were issued to Chinese in 2001, and last year, the number was 1.1 million, so it's increased tenfold in the past 10 years," he says, claiming that 90 percent of Chinese tourists to the US will visit Nevada.

According to the US Travel Association, each Chinese tourist spends on average $6,000 in the US, excluding flight and hotel expenses.

"And a report released by China's UnionPay showed that more than 50 percent of Chinese customers' (credit and debit) card payments (while in the US) were made in Nevada," Chen says.

Nevada proves a sure bet in other ways

"It is a win-win situation, since many products are much cheaper in the US than in China, and the hotels and restaurants are not expensive. Some people said the saving they made shopping in Nevada was much more than their plane tickets."

Qian Xiu is among those visitors. The senior manager in China Mobile went on a shopping and skiing trip to Nevada last year with her husband.

"The reason I chose Nevada is that it had all we wanted in the US. My husband likes skiing, and Nevada has one of the best skiing resorts in the US. And I like shopping, spas and sightseeing," Qian, 36, says.

"My husband bought a ski suit, including goggles and hat, for $189. In China, for the same price you can barely buy a pair of skiing trousers." However, not all Chinese people are as familiar with Nevada as Qian and her husband, and the state believes there is still tremendous potential in a range of attractions.

In April, a delegation from Nevada, led by Krolicki, visited China to promote its tourism programs. It included local industry players, such as the Graceland Wedding Chapel, Lake Tahoe Heavenly Ski Resort, which is located on the border of California and Nevada, and Caesars Entertainment.

"Getting the message out is always the challenge. We are working together with tour operators and companies who put together vacation packages," Krolicki says.

He says the China office is working very hard to give Chinese tourists a bigger picture of Nevada.

"We opened our tourism offices here in China in 2004, the first US state to receive that license," he adds.

"It is important to let people know that Nevada does not only have Las Vegas and casinos. We also have Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful natural scenic areas and ski resorts in the US. And Nevada is home to golf.

"Also, more people travel to Las Vegas than any other place in the world to get married." Many of them are Chinese, he adds.

Recently engaged Jiang Yi, 32, and her boyfriend have decided on a church wedding in Las Vegas rather than a large wedding ceremony in a local restaurant, as favored by most Chinese couples.

"I have been dreaming of a church wedding since I was a little girl, and I thought: Why not have an authentic church wedding in the US, just like those scenes I watched in movies?" Jiang says.

Jiang and her 36-year-old fiance, both senior company managers in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, also believe getting married in the US is more economical.

"A normal wedding ceremony in Hangzhou in a decent restaurant will cost at least 100,000 yuan ($15,800, 12,500 euros) but a traditional church wedding (in Nevada) costs no more than $500, so why not?"

The expanding hearts, minds and wallets of China's new middle class is boosting tourism in Nevada, and Krolicki is expecting more.

"With tourism comes business," he says. As chairman of commissions on both tourism and economic development, Krolicki naturally hopes the tourist boom can lead to more investment in Nevada.

"Nevada has no personal income tax and no corporate tax, and Chinese investment in Nevada is very strong," he says.

Manufacturing, commodities, and gold, iron ore and lithium mining are big industries in the state, and Krolicki hopes within a few years, investment will reach billions of dollars.

More immediately, Krolicki and Chen hope direct flights between China and Nevada can be started, rather than visitors having to transfer from Los Angeles, New York or other cities.

Chen says charter flights and transfers no longer meet the growing demand.

(China Daily 06/01/2012 page16)