Chinese make record number of NYC trips

Updated: 2015-02-03 12:45

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese make record number of NYC trips

New York City saw a record number of Chinese tourists in 2014, with over 740,000 of them visiting the Big Apple and becoming the city's fourth-biggest source of foreign travelers. Amy He / China Daily

The number of Chinese visiting New York City set a record last year, and city officials are looking to new visa extensions as "a game changer" leading to much higher numbers.

In 2014, 56.4 million people visited the city and about 743,000 of them came from China, excluding those from Hong Kong, or close to five times the number who came in 2009.

China became the city's fourth-biggest source of visitors, trailing the UK, Canada, and Brazil. New York City is the second most-popular port of entry into the US for Chinese travelers after Los Angeles.

"We've been active in the market since the mid-2000s, so it's been a long commitment to growing the market, to establishing the market, and we're really pleased with the direction that it's going, and they are direct results from all of that activity in China," Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, told China Daily on Monday.

The number of Chinese tourists has been growing at a double-digit rate over the last decade, New York's tourism promotion bureau, Dixon said.

"The strong growth rates reflect a surge in leisure visitation, as long-haul travel is seen as economically possible by a rising Chinese middle class with increasing and desirable disposable income," NYC & Company said.

New visa extensions by China and the US announced last November extending travel and business visas from just one year to a decade will also be a boon to the city.

"Going from one year to 10 years is a game changer. The opportunity to return is going to be there, just in their passport, and they're going to have the ability to come back to the US at their leisure once they have their 10-year visa, and then it's going to be incumbent on all of us in the tourism industry to keep that inspiration going and keep New York on the top of the list," Dixon said.

Chinese travelers still visit New York primarily in groups and with family, though they are becoming more comfortable at traveling independently, Dixon said, adding that the "real opportunity" lies with the individual traveler who has more disposable income.

"That's the market that's going to stay longer, spend more, and enjoy the city more, bring their friends and family, and come back again, hopefully, over time. That's the strategic pillar that we're working toward," he said. "We will always have and always support the group market, but as it relates to where the market will trend going forward, I think it's definitely going to be the individual travel side of the business."

Shopping is the most popular activity for Chinese tourists, followed by sightseeing, visiting art galleries and museums, and fine dining.

Macy's has had a $400 million renovation with the international tourist in mind. The number of visitors from China has increased by "leaps and bounds," according to Kristen Esposito, vice-president of tourism marketing and development.

The store's Herald Square and 34th Street location is starting to see 30 to 40 percent more travelers a month, Esposito said, even though West Coast locations get the most Chinese travelers by volume with Los Angeles being the primary port of entry and transit point for Chinese travel in the United States.

New York's most popular museums are also seeing a surge in Chinese visitors. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tourists from China exceeded those from any other country in 2014. About 209,000 Chinese visited the museum on Fifth Avenue, or about 10 percent of the Met's international visitors.

The Met will be unveiling a China-themed exhibit in May, which focuses on how China influenced the art world through painting, costumes, and porcelain.

"The Met is a place that everyone wants to visit, and I think it's a bucket list item. A lot of the Chinese tourists that come here, they may come to America once in their life," Victoria Cairl, the Met's tourism marketing manager said.