Business / Industries

LA sees influx of Chinese visitors

By Lia Zhu (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-01 11:33

Tourism insiders in Los Angeles are optimistic that the Chinese market will continue to grow in the next few years despite recent economic challenges, such as the strength of the dollar against the yuan and the volatile stock market in China.

"That market is so deep that it will survive these challenges," Ernest Wooden Jr, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, told China Daily.

"We believe the Chinese market is very elastic, and of course, very, very big-1.37 billion citizens. So our estimates are that demand for visiting Los Angeles will continue at least, as far as we can see, into the next couple of years," Wooden said, adding that he expects double-digit increases in the future.

According to Visit California, a nonprofit organization tasked with marketing California tourism, the top three "motivating California features" for Chinese are all in Los Angeles: Disneyland, Hollywood and Universal Studios Hollywood.

"We are very lucky to have the reputation of being a must-see destination to the Chinese market," said Lisa Pisaturo, director of international and domestic tourism sales at Universal Studios Hollywood. "Most of the Chinese tourists come mainly for the studio tour-to see the Hollywood aspect of moviemaking-and many of them also enjoy our shows and the rides."

She said there wasn't much of a slowdown this year for Chinese New Year, and the trend is toward continual growth in the Chinese market.

"We experienced double-digit growth over the last year, so that's an indication to us that it hasn't really affected the groups that are traveling," she said. "The middle class and affluent Chinese families may spend less on shopping, but it sounds like, from everything we hear, that there are still big groups that will be traveling.

"We are opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 7, and we believe it will be an additional attraction for Chinese families since so many children in China grew up with Harry Potter."

Last year, 780,000 Chinese people visited Los Angeles, spending more than $1.1 billion there as China surpassed Canada for the first time as the second-largest source of international tourists. Ten years ago, China was not even in the top 10 of international visitors to Los Angeles.

"Chinese visitors are spending more money than others, and they are staying longer," Wooden said. "They are one of our best visitors, and that's why we have such a focus on our marketing efforts in China."

These aggressive outreach efforts include offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as two programs called "China Ready" and "NiHao (Hello) China", aimed at helping the tourism industry in Southern California better serve Chinese tourists.

"We think there are many Chinese who aspire to come to Los Angeles, a bucket-list kind of destination," Wooden said. "Thousands and thousands, and maybe millions of people, are yet to come here."

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