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US businesses get a taste of Chinese culture as tourism booms

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-27 17:06

WASHINGTON - "We'd like to make sure that all Chinese visitors are served with hot tea upon arrival and have the option of congee for breakfast," hotel manager David Bernand said Wednesday, as he displayed his hotel's special Chinese menu.

"One of our Chinese customers have told us that this is something very Chinese, and we have done so," Bernand, the general manager of Four Seasons Hotel, told Xinhua.

The tea, the congee and the Chinese menus are just some of the features the hotel has added to please Chinese visitors, which jumped a "astronomical" 59 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to Bernand.

Across the service sector in the US capital, businesses including hotels, restaurants, museums and tour operators are all feeling the boom in Chinese tourism industry, and many are taking a crash course on Chinese culture as they seek to tailor their services to meet the needs of Chinese visitors.

Destination DC, an organization that promotes tourism in the US capital, said that incoming Chinese tourists began to grow in double digits since three years ago and surpassed Britain as the city's number one market.

"We are at about 304,000 visitors from China that come over to Washington and of course that number is continuing to grow year over year," said Theresa Belpulsi, the group's vice president of tourism and visitor services.

Washington D.C., with its landmark buildings and wide-ranging sights of interest, attracts around 2 million foreign visitors each year, of which those from China make up about 15 percent.

To help Washington businesses better understand their Chinese patrons, Destination DC has launched in 2016 a "Welcome China" initiative, which offered education programs on how to appeal to Chinese tourists.

"In order to better serve our Chinese visitors because they are such a different cultural exchange, we wanted to take a program so we can educate our services here in Washington D.C," Belpulsi said.

"We've built a checklist of five to 10 things that each of the businesses needs to do in order to be accepted into the program itself," Belpulsi explained, "such as making brochures in Mandarin and having a Mandarin website."

Among the participants of the program is the International Spy Museum in Washington's Chinatown, which exhibits an unique collection of espionage-related items such as shiny sports cars featured in James Bond movies.

The museum's public relations coordinator Aliza Bran said, China jumped from the seventh to the fourth largest foreign market from 2015 to 2016, "which is a huge jump."

In response to the influx of Chinese tourists, the museum printed out guide booklets in Chinese to help visitors understand the stories and history, and collections displayed in the museum.

"Early on we did a few tours to make sure we knew what got the Chinese tourists excited, what spoke to them. And we found that a lot of our interactive exhibit were those items," Bran said, adding that compared with local visitors, the Chinese liked to immense themselves in the role of a spy with the more hands-on gadgets the museum has to offer.

Bran said that the museum has received positive feedbacks from visitors and tour operators, who were glad to find the effort the museum had made to accommodate them.

Seizing the momentum, Belpulsi said her organization is planning a Chinese New Year event in Washington in 2019.

"We are right in the beginning stages of that we are so excited, we've been doing research over the past year," she said.

Belpulsi said she is confident that the increasing number of Chinese tourists will not only bring back home fond memories from the United States, but also improve Americans' understanding of China.

"Tourism is like a bridge, whenever you meet people from strange places you're always kind of intrigued by that place and maybe plan to visit," she said.

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