Travelers from China and Beyond
We hear a lot these days about the world shrinking as international travel becomes easier and more common. The United States and Canada both host millions of international visitors every year. But the face of international travel is constantly shifting, and it isn’t just the concern of major gateway cities anymore.
Until 2007, Chinese travelers were forbidden by their government to travel to the U.S. In 2007 the restriction was reversed, and now a huge number of Chinese tourists are coming to America. In 2008, nearly half a million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. In 2011 that number jumped to over 1 million. The Commerce Department projects a 259% increase in Chinese visitors by 2017. And Chinese tourists are big spenders. They typically spend $6,000 per trip, the highest average of any foreign country.
As much as 70% of Chinese visitors travel to California, but according to Haybina Hao, director of international development for the National Tour Association, there is plenty of opportunity for other destinations, if they begin to market to Chinese visitors. According to Hao, smaller communities should partner with major cities and encourage them to add excursions to their destinations on Chinese itineraries.
Chinese travelers, like their counterparts in the US and Canada, are increasingly turning to the Internet to make travel plans. Targeting Chinese travelers could start as simply as offering Chinese translations on your website. Focusing on your brand is important as well (and not just for targeting foreign visitors!). Chinese travelers tend to seek out things that are considered “top notch” – the biggest, or the oldest, for example. Even if your community is not a major gateway city, it could hold a lure that will draw Chinese visitors.
Being prepared for an increase in foreign visitors is important as well. Some Chinese tour groups have encountered grumbling service when they request things that Americans are unfamiliar with; something as simple as asking for their water warm, rather than ice cold, can earn them odd looks. It’s important to remember your front line staff, all through your community, are putting a face to your destination, making an impression, whether it be good or bad. Make sure people in the community are educated in some basics of handling international visitors, so everyone will feel welcome in your community.
Foreign tourism, from China and elsewhere, provides the opportunity of injecting cash into our communities. Are you doing anything to entice foreign visitors?