China / Society

Washington, DC, boosting efforts to attract Chinese

By Yuan Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-30 07:16

The checklist of things that hotels, restaurants, museums, airports and other tourism-related businesses in Washington, DC, should provide to attract Chinese tourists includes accepting China UnionPay and having Chinese social media accounts, free Wi-Fi and smoking rooms.

On Tuesday, representatives from the tourism industry and related businesses across the greater DC area gathered at a conference focusing on the Chinese tourism market, on the eve of the weeklong National Day holiday.

The conference, hosted by marketing organization Destination DC, was also part of the Welcome China program initiated recently by Destination DC to help the area to better accommodate Chinese visitors.

Through the program, local businesses can earn Welcome China certification by meeting at least three of a list of 12 requirements in a particular category. The requirements include providing Mandarin-speaking staff, Chinese subtitles on videos and audio tours in Chinese.

"This is our first entrance into a certification program, so we're going to do a lot to promote the program out to the customers," said Theresa Belpulsi, vice-president of tourism and visitor services at Destination DC.

About 2.6 million Chinese visited the United States last year. Washington, DC, with record arrivals of about 300,000 visitors from China last year, has witnessed a 635 percent growth in Chinese visitors over the past 10 years, according to Scott Johnson, president of Travel Marketing Insights.

"One out of every nine Chinese visitors that comes to the United States actually comes to Washington," said Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination DC. "So not only are we trying to grow the number of Chinese coming to Washington, but also the number coming to the United States."

"Clearly, China is going to outpace all other markets in the next five years," Johnson said, showing a graphic projecting that Chinese arrivals will increase by 96 percent over the next five years.

The goal is to attract about 500,000 Chinese visitors annually by 2020, according to Belpulsi.

Mavis Zhang, vice-president of SinoMedia, noted an increase in younger, repeat and independent travelers.

Last year, Chinese visitors spent an average of $10,300 in the United States.

Yuan Yuan in Washington contributed to this story.

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