Chinese tourists visit New York but stay in New Jersey hotels

Chinese tourists New York 2013China has become the city’s fastest-growing market for overseas tourists, with the number of visitors from the country jumping 19% in the past year alone, outpacing even the globe—hopping Brazilians. Hotels in the five boroughs, however, are not reaping the rewards, because the price-sensitive travelers are heading to New Jersey, where room rates are significantly cheaper.

Currently, China is New York’s fourth-largest market for overseas visitors—rising from 13th in 2009. An estimated 646,000 Chinese tourists arrived here last year. What’s more, the world’s most populous nation could soon become the city’s No. 1 market, according to tourism bureau NYC & Company, edging out the United Kingdom, which accounted for just over 1 million visitors last year.

The escalation is a result of China’s granting the U.S. “approved destination status” in 2007 and a 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama to reduce the time it takes to get a visitor’s visa at an American consulate in China to less than one week from as much as 100 days.

But just 65% of Chinese visitors, compared with 87% of Brazilians (No. 3) and 84% of the British, rest their heads in the city’s 101,000 hotel rooms. The hospitality industry is eager to improve its odds.

The Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square books large groups of visitors all the time, but none of them are from China. That will change in April, when 300 of Amway Great China’s top sellers from Shanghai will be staying at the property for five nights as part of their reward.

“We haven’t seen a large group from China like this one yet,” said a spokeswoman for Marriott’s properties in New York City. “It’s a big deal for the hotel,” she added.

The 1,949-room Marquis will pay special attention to these guests to cultivate its reputation in China. For one thing, the hotel is supplying each of their rooms with slippers and a teapot. It also retained Terri Morrison, author of Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, to conduct a seminar on Chinese customs and basic greetings for the hotel staffers who will come in contact with the guests.

Meanwhile, hoteliers in New Jersey say they have more Chinese business than they can handle. “We sometimes turn them away to a sister property,” said Cathy Coanda, director of sales for the Crowne Plaza hotel in Elizabeth. The 260-room property near Newark airport is booking more than 5,000 room nights a year from Chinese tour operators, who request a discount as well as breakfast in exchange for the high volume they bring.

Ms. Coanda wishes some of the groups would reserve during slower times, when it’s harder to fill up the hotel. They pay the lowest rates the hotel can offer. And compared with the Marriott Marquis, which last week listed room rates online of more than $400 per night, the Crowne Plaza is already a bargain at $120 to $140 per night for a room with two beds, according to its website.

Similarly, the Crowne Plaza in Paramus—about 20 miles from midtown Manhattan—tries to limit the number of rooms it books for Chinese groups to 20 at a time. The 120-room property gives groups a discount of up to 35% off the best available rate on its website.

“It’s great business because they leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and return at 9 p.m., so there is less wear and tear on our rooms,” said Michelle Gordon, director of sales for the property. “But they want low rates.”

The preference for New Jersey is not lost on NYC & Company, which is trying to convince Chinese tour operators that there are deals to be had in the city. Many Chinese visitors have friends and family members with whom they stay, but those who come in big tour groups stay in hotels with ample parking for the motor-coach buses that take them everywhere they go in the U.S.

“We are positioning the borough hotels as an alternative to New Jersey, showing the Chinese the advantages of Long Island City, Queens, for example, over Edison,” said Fred Dixon, chief executive of the -bureau.

NYC & Company has set up a “training academy” in Shanghai where it is educating Chinese travel agents, who arrange the vast majority of trips to the U.S., on the benefits of booking a hotel in the city and staying here longer.

“In a 10- to 15-day trip, they are starting on the West Coast and end up at Niagara Falls,” said Mr. Dixon. “They want to see it all, and we are encouraging them to slow down.”

Of course, not all Chinese travelers are pinching pennies. Business travelers and wealthy tourists spend freely at New York hotels. To attract them, the five-star Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue launched a $49 Chinese breakfast about four years ago at its restaurant, Clement, featuring steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings and stir-fried egg noodles with chicken. It added a $43 vegetarian option in June.

New York’s tourist attractions and retailers are also doing their part to attract the Chinese, who are eager to take in all of the traditional sightseeing opportunities while they are here.

Hornblower Cruises & Events is making a big investment in the market. It hired several Chinese graduate students from New York University to help it launch a targeted tour product. The company dedicated one of its harbor-tour boats for Mandarin-speaking tourists–including Chinese-language banners on the upper decks and a recorded tour of the sights in lower Manhattan. The boat leaves from Pier 15 and makes two trips in the morning, carrying some 800 passengers each day; a ride costs $20. It even serves Chinese dishes, including ramen noodles. Hornblower is planning to add another vessel in May. “We’ve never branded a boat like this before,” said Cameron Clark, vice president and general manager.

Last summer, the Empire State Building introduced a signed certificate given to Chinese tourists to commemorate their visit. No other group gets such special treatment.

“It’s about creating buzz and showing appreciation for their visit,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, director of the Empire State Building Observatory, whose signature appears on the certificate.

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Huson International Media appointed to represent Luxury Hotels of America magazine

LUXURY HOTELS OF AMERICA FINAL LOGOHuson International Media has been appointed by China Elite Focus Magazines LLC as the exclusive advertising sales force in North America for Luxury Hotels of America digital magazine.

Ralph Lockwood, President of Huson International Media, comments, “We are delighted with this new partnership which will allow us to develop the advertising revenues for Luxury Hotels of America. This technology-forward publication leverages the popularity of tablets, smartphones and social media to offer affluent Chinese travelers up to date and comprehensive information about the leading hotels and resorts in the United States. The new generation of international vacationers from China are more independent, and less likely than their predecessors to book packaged tours or use a travel agent, and Luxury Hotels of America is perfectly positioned to reach this audience, as they plan their US vacations. The publication is an ideal addition to our already robust portfolio of international media reaching affluent travelers around the world.”

As Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines and Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America, says “We have chosenLHA 1 Huson International Media as our exclusive advertising sales force in North America because of their proven track record of a leading media representation company. We have been impressed by their professionalism and understanding of the new generation of  independent and affluent Chinese travelers coming to the United States. Working closely with Huson International Media will allow Luxury Hotels of America to increase its advertising revenues with North American advertisers such as hotels and resorts, luxury brands, airlines, entertainment parks and tourism boards.”

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, with locations in California, New York, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, Huson International Media has been representing media owners in Consumer, Fashion, Electronics, Computing, Business, and Finance sectors since 1988. With a current partnership line-up of more than 60 media-owners worldwide including divisions of Gruner + Jahr, Reed-Elsevier, Prisma Presse, and News Ltd, Huson International Media is one of the world’s leading media representatives.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices in Shanghai and New York, China Elite Focus Magazines is the leading publishing company specialized in luxury travel magazines for affluent Chinese outbound travelers. With publications such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, Niuyue Mag, VIP Golf USA and Luxury Hotels of America, China Elite Focus Magazines provides a high quality content in  international luxury travel and lifestyle to the new generation of sophisticated Chinese travelers.

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California expecting more affluent Chinese shoppers

Chinese shoppers - Luxury Hotels of AmericaCalifornia’s No. 1 market for overseas visitors is China, said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a non-profit geared toward maintaining and developing tourism marketing programs in the state.  She said Chinese tourists spent more than $1.6 billion in 2012, and spending levels are expected to increase, with China’s growing middle class and the easier access to visas for U.S. travel.
“We’re seeing a trajectory on China that is once in a career or lifetime,” Beteta said.
And it’s that growth that many tourist attractions and venues want to capture in sales.
Beteta’s non-profit hosted a forum at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena on Wednesday, where more than 460 people gathered to discuss tourism issues, including how to better cater to Chinese travelers.
The tourists are coming from large metropolitan Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, as well as second-tier cities like Qingdao, Hangzhou or Chengdu.
Reports  show a growing interest from affluent Chinese nationals to invest in American real estate, business and send their children to the U.S. for study. Additionally, Chinese millionaires tend to be on the younger side. The average age of a millionaire in China is around 37, compared to 57 in the U.S.
One key factor is also how much money tourists from China spend – an average $170 a day in L.A., which compares with tourists from other locales spending an average $163 in L.A.

But how to convince affluent Chinese tourists to choose a U.S. destination versus another? Chinese travelers have their secret weapon in their iPad. Several digital travel magazines entirely in Chinese mandarin are now published for the famous Apple tablet, and have a tremendous impact on how Chinese tourists plan their trip to America. Publications like Luxury Hotels of America, Niuyue Mag, or the Shanghai Travelers’ Club have gained tens of thousands of new readers over the last year. According to Sam Wang, a Shanghai businessman traveling three to four times a year to the U.S. “I read Luxury Hotels of America before choosing a hotel because they have a high quality editorial content about hotels that I can’t find in regular travel websites or booking engines in China.” He also said ” I want the top hotels where American famous people go, not the hotels for tourists that are advertised by cheap travel agencies”.
Businesses are hoping to give tourists more reasons to come to their attractions by pulling out all the stops. Hotels like the Hilton are offering Chinese breakfast, with dishes that include rice porridge. And stores like Macy’s are offering a 10 percent discount that can be used on some luxury brands.
“We’ve done a number of promotions to make it very easy and appealing for the consumers to shop at Macy’s,” said Brian Chuan, director of tourism marketing and development at Macy’s. “We have the products that they want. We carry all the American designer brands that they are looking for.”
He said Chinese tourists spend the most money at Macy’s compared to any other international group. Macy’s tracks the sales by how much the tourists spend on their international credit cards. He said it’s cheaper for Chinese tourists to buy the American brands here, because in some cases it might cost three times more in China.
“We see them leaving with an extra luggage filled with things they want to bring home,” Chuan said.
Chuan also said Macy’s accepts the China UnionPay card, which is a payment card associated with network of banks in China. That makes it convenient for shoppers who don’t want to pay in all cash.

Spending from international visitors make up just 3 percent of Macy’s overall sales at its 800 stores nationwide, Chuan said. But he pointed out that at some locations, spending from international tourists could make up 20 to 50 percent of a store’s total sales, he said.
Chuan travels to China to market Macy’s to groups such as tour operators and banks. Macy’s doesn’t have any locations in China, but Chuan said people there are familiar with the brand.
Macy’s has 13 stores with visitor centers, that allows customers to check in their bags. Centers in Southern California include one in San Diego and Downtown L.A., for its close proximity to the convention center and Staples Center. At key stores, Macy’s may have Mandarin speaking staff.
It appears to be working. Just one day last week in New York, buses dropped off about 1,500 Chinese travelers at the Macy’s, he said.

Source: Southern California Public Radio / W. Lee

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Guam expecting more Chinese visitors

130212230105-guam-map-story-topChinese tourism overseas will double in the next six years to 200 million people a year, according to a recent report from analysts at CLSA, and a tiny US military outpost 900 miles north of the equator in the Western Pacific could be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

The hilly 200-square-mile island of Guam, population about 160,000, could see 50% growth in Chinese tourists, analysts say, the most of any destination.

In ultimate numbers, that’s still not huge: 21,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Guam in 2013, compared to over 3 million Chinese tourists who went to Thailand, the most popular foreign destination. But the growth in Chinese tourists to Guam has already skyrocketed from 1,000 in 2007, and Guam businesses are lobbying the US Congress to pass a visa-waiver program (paywall) for Chinese citizens that could make that growth even faster.

Guam’s proximity to the rest of Asia (it’s a three to five hour flight from several major cities) has already contributed to a boom in tourism, mostly from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, that has transformed the island’s economy. The US military base was reliant on defense spending for decades, but tourism now supplies about 60% of Guam’s revenues.

Chinese tourists Guam - Luxury hotels of AmericaTaiwan’s “Hello Kitty” airline, Eva Air, started regular flights to Guam from Taipei in 2011, and nearly 1 million Japanese vacationers come every year to enjoy the island’s mix of white sand beaches, coral reef and air conditioned duty-free shopping malls.

Guam’s military history might prove as much of a draw for the Chinese, who are clashing with Japan and other Asian neighbors over the rights to islands and territory in the South China Sea. In July, Guam celebrates its liberation from the Japanese, who landed in 1941 and were driven from the island by the US in 1944, with a month of parades, festivals and the crowning of a “Liberation Queen.”

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Chinese New Year: Las Vegas Lays Out Red Carpet for Chinese Tourists

Chinese gamblers - China Elite FocusHotels and shopping malls on the Las Vegas Strip will welcome Chinese tourists with free gifts, lucky draws, dragon dancing, and traditional Chinese entertainment during the Lunar New Year.  Feng shui masters have even been called in to create floral displays with Chinese themes in shopping malls, hotel lobbies, and other locations as Lac Vegas pulls out all the stop to welcome Chinese travelers, who are visiting Sin City in ever increasing numbers. Luxury Hotels of America, a Chinese mandarin travel magazine has already planned a special issue on Las Vegas due to the high demand of its affluent Chinese readers.
“We recognize the value and power of the Chinese traveler,” says Janet LaFevre, Senior Marketing Manager, Fashion Show and Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian.
“We are expanding our reach to the Chinese tourist through recent sales missions to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou, along with Chinese advertising campaigns, social media, and trade show participation. Our efforts are already paying off via our cooperation with UnionPay, which will help to draw even greater numbers of Chinese shoppers to Fashion Show and Grand Canal Shoppes.”

Brian Chuan, Director of Tourism Marketing and Development for Macy’s Inc., which has a large department store at the Fashion Show shopping mall, is equally upbeat.
Along with Grand Canal Shoppes, Fashion Show is collaborating with UnionPay – China’s most popular credit card – to make Chinese travelers feel welcome in Las Vegas during the Lunar New Year.
“We have partnered closely with UnionPay and have accepted UnionPay card payments at all our stores for nearly 10 years,” Brian says.
“Macy’s has a dedicated tourism marketing team offering exclusive visitor programmes, and our Fashion Show store features a Visitor Center to service visiting guests. In celebrating the coming of the Year of the Horse, Macy’s will further our focus in welcoming Chinese shoppers with special in-store events, displays and merchandising at select destinations.”

Chinese travelers are becoming a force to be reckoned with in many parts of the world, and Las Vegas is no exception.
“China is currently the number one source of international travel to Las Vegas from Asia and continues to grow at a rapid pace,” says Michael Goldsmith, Vice President of International Marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“Las Vegas welcomed 263,000 visitors from China in 2012, a 40% increase from the prior year.”

Source: http://www.accidentaltravelwriter.net

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Chinese investors turn to US commercial realty

Chinese businessman - China Elite FocusChinese investors, the second-biggest overseas buyers of US residential real estate, are building up portfolios of US commercial property as they look for new avenues of diversification. Chinese entities announced more than $5.89 billion in projects in January-October, nearly six times the $996 million for all of 2011 and 2012 combined, data from New York-based consultancy Rhodium Group show.
“There is a lot of upside,” said Thilo Hanemann, Rhodium’s research director. “We are at the beginning of a structural increase of Chinese investment in US commercial real estate.”
Greenland Holding Group Co completed a deal that will give the Shanghai-based developer a 70 per cent stake in Forest City Enterprises Inc’s Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre commercial and residential project in Brooklyn, New York. The deal, which is expected to require $4.8 billion worth of investment over eight years, is the largest property transaction by a Chinese company in the US.
China’s push into US property is underpinned by declining investment returns at home, a growing desire by wealthy individuals and developers to diversify their holdings overseas, and property companies looking to capitalize on offshore migration.
“Some investors want to diversify their assets, and some are looking for different growth opportunities,” said Julien Zhang, international director in Beijing for property consultancy Jones Lang Lasalle, which is advising three Chinese conglomerates on property deals. “Others want to learn how to enter mature and developed markets.”
A rebound in US real estate pricing, tight inventory in major cities, and continued low interest rates also are attracting Chinese buyers, said Gary Locke, the US ambassador to China. Locke was speaking at a forum in Beijing sponsored by the US Embassy to promote Chinese investment in US property. Chinese investment in the US has surged to $18.5 billion over the last two years, more than the combined total of the previous 11 years, Locke said.

“Chinese investors are now looking to purchase entire luxury shopping malls in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City”, said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine. “As the new generation of affluent Chinese consumers prefer to buy luxury goods overseas, Chinese investors know that it’s now better to invest in luxury retail in the U.S. rather than in China, where foreign brands have opened too many deserted outlets” Gervois added.
Chinese nationals bought more than $8.1 billion worth of real estate in the year ended March 31, representing 12 per cent of the estimated $68.2 billion of domestic property purchased by overseas nationals and second only to Canadians, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.
“Real estate is finally becoming a global industry and you will see capital flows on a cross-border basis, just like every other investment class,” said Rob Speyer, co-chief executive of Tishman Speyer Properties LP, which partnered in February with China Vanke Co Ltd to build a $620 million apartment project in San Francisco.
Speyer, whose company is also developing commercial, residential and retail projects in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Chengdu and Tianjin, said he courted Vanke’s Chairman Wang Shi for more than two years, and inked their deal only 45 days after first introducing the project to him.
Not everyone is convinced that Chinese investment in the US property market will continue uninterrupted. Other options for expansion include Europe, Australia and Singapore, which account for about two-thirds of offshore Chinese real estate investment, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.
Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China Ltd, who paid $700 million through her family trust to buy a stake in the General Motors Building in Manhattan, said that while the US regulatory and legal environment remained attractive, valuations were getting expensive. “I would not feel as comfortable today putting in money as I did a few years ago,” Zhang said.

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Chinese tourists have become the highest-spending overseas visitors to the U.S. and valued customers for U.S. shopping centers and travel industries

Chinese tourists - Chanel store- China Elite FocusMinutes after arriving by bus at an outlet mall in Cabazon, a dozen or so Chinese tourists hustled out to buy luggage that they planned to stuff with high-end clothes, shoes and bags.
But not Guoshing Cui, a Samsung supervisor from Guangzhou. He made a beeline for the Coach store, where he picked out three expensive handbags. He paid more than $800 from a wad of $100 bills.
The bags were gifts for family and friends in China, where Coach goods sell for two to three times the price in the U.S. “It’s a smart move,” he said of his purchases.
That kind of power shopping has made the Chinese tourist the highest-spending overseas visitor to the U.S. and one of the most valued customers for U.S. outlet malls, shopping centers and tour bus operators.
Chinese tourists spend an average of $2,932 per visit to California, compared with $1,883 for other overseas visitors, according to the latest statistics by the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. A big chunk of their spending — about 33% — goes for gifts and souvenirs.
“What we know about Chinese visitors is they don’t like to lay on the beaches,” said Ernest Wooden Jr., president of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. “What they do like is shopping.”
The outpouring of Chinese money helped set a record for spending by foreign visitors to the U.S. — $168.1 billion in 2012, according to federal officials. Los Angeles is getting its share of the Chinese spending: Nearly 1 in 3 Chinese travelers to the U.S. makes a stop in the City of Angels.
“The Chinese middle class is growing and their No. 1 destination is L.A.,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has made two trips to China and will be in Beijing this week to promote trade and travel with L.A.

“Our magazine has featured many articles about California in 2013, due to the high demand from our readers, very affluent independent Chinese travelers who carefully plan their trip to the U.S. and don’t trust much the official group tours travel agencies” said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America, a mandarin-only luxury travel publication about the United States. Pierre Gervois added “There is often this misconception that Chinese travelers are interested only in cheap hotels: It might have been true five years ago, but the new generation of Chinese travelers are perfectly aware of the quality of U.S. hotels and shopping malls. The South Coast Plaza (Orange County), for instance, has perfectly understood how to welcome Chinese shoppers. It’s an example to be followed by the entire luxury retail industry”
China’s relatively strong economy and its growing middle class means more Chinese citizens have money to travel and spend, according to tourism experts. The middle class in China numbered 247 million people in 2011, or 18% of the population, and is projected to grow to more than 600 million by 2020.
Visitors to California from China are typically professionals, executives or managers, with an average annual income of $66,900 — compared with an annual per capita income of about $5,000 for all Chinese residents, according to statistics from the U.S. and Chinese governments.
To draw in more Chinese spending, store owners, hotel managers and tour guides in Southern California are going out of their way to welcome Chinese tourists.
At the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, 20 of the 130 stores employ Mandarin-speaking salesclerks such as Jeffrey Hsu, who works at the mall’s Ugg Australia store.

“I think we understand their customs,” Hsu said. “When someone comes to a foreign country they want to bring back gifts for their family and friends.”
Spending by Chinese travelers has grown so fast in the last few years that it has surpassed the per capita outlays of other high-spending visitors, including travelers from Japan, Australia, Brazil and South Korea.
The customs and unique characteristics of the local economy shape how foreign visitors spend their time and money when visiting the U.S.
Australians, for example, share a similar culture with the U.S. and are more likely than other overseas travelers to visit museums, art galleries and historical sites.
“We are fascinated by peoples of different cultures,” said James McKay, an engineer from Melbourne, whose recent visit to the U.S. included tours of Alcatraz island in San Francisco, the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii and ground zero in New York. He also took a historic tour of Disneyland with his wife, Karen.
Japanese tourists, according to travel surveys, spend heavily at restaurants because certain foods, particularly red meat, are much more expensive in the island nation.
That may explain why Morton’s steakhouse in Beverly Hills has become hugely popular among Japanese tourists.
“Don’t even put fish or chicken in front of them,” Joanna Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, said of Japanese visitors. “They come for steak.”
But Chinese tourists tend not to shop for themselves. Most of their purchases — usually high-end clothes and accessories featured in American movies and magazines — are gifts for friends and family.
Chinese tourists in the U.S. target brands such as Coach, Ugg, Polo, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Neiman Marcus and L’Occitane. Steep Chinese taxes make such brands two to three times more expensive in China, said Helen Koo, president of America Asia tours in Monterey Park.
“Many tourists feel that the savings more than pay for the entire trip,” she said.

Source: Los Angeles Times / Hugo Martin

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