From Hipster To Horseback: According to Pierre Gervois, Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America magazine, Chinese Luxury Travelers Demand Authentic Experiences

Pierre Gervois, Publisher Luxury Hotels of America - China Elite Focus

Pierre Gervois, Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America, New York, October 2014

As China’s outbound tourist market rapidly expands, high-end hotels and retailers across the world are vying for the business of this important group. In the United States, one company on the front lines of this trend is China Elite Focus, a New York-headquartered, Chinese-language publisher that has been producing luxury travel magazines for Chinese readers since 2008. With content focused on destinations, hotels, cuisine, retail, and philanthropy, the magazines were created to meet demand by moneyed Chinese travelers for content on authentic, upscale experiences.

In order to learn more about how China’s luxury outbound travel market has evolved over the past six years, we talked to China Elite Focus CEO and Publisher Pierre Gervois about the changes he’s seen in Chinese travelers’ taste. Read below to hear his thoughts on Chinese travelers’ interest in getting a taste of American culture, the decline of the Chinese “100 percent shopping trip,” and how this fall’s Golden Week fared for U.S. luxury businesses.

What inspired you to start China Elite Focus?

In 2008, after having served as the president of a consulting company specialized in foreign investments in China, I decided to start a new publishing company and to publish high quality luxury travel magazines in Chinese Mandarin. A lot of my Chinese friends complained to me that they could not find any publication in Chinese language with curated and sophisticated content for their outbound travels. So our mission, from the beginning, was to bring to them beautifully written travel stories about the world’s most spectacular and exclusive experiences. I’m very proud of the job we have done with our team of very talented travel editors, lead by our Senior Travel Editor, Elaine Ke. Today we publish there magazines: the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, Luxury Hotels of America, and American Philanthropy.

How is the content of your magazines tailored to a Chinese audience?

All the content of our publications is written at our Shanghai office by Chinese editors. We do not translate from English an existing article; we produce our own original content. We are in constant exchange with our readers through Weibo, and we know what kind of themes or destinations they want to read stories about. For example, we have noted a strong interest for travel to the United States over the past year, and we have increased the stories about luxury travel experiences in the United States.

We’ve been reading a lot about how wealthy Chinese travelers are becoming more interested in “experiential” travel rather than just basic shopping and sightseeing. Have you noticed this trend growing among your readers?

That is true. The time of the “100 percent shopping trips” is done. The new generation of affluent Chinese outbound travelers is now very mature, extremely well-informed, and wants to discover new experiences, off the beaten tracks. We have published stories about horseback riding experiences in the Nevada desert in Luxury Hotels of America which had great success with our readers. Chinese shoppers tend now to plan much more carefully and in a very sophisticated way their shopping plan abroad. They are looking for more limited-edition items of lesser-known brands they have discovered on social media networks, rather that already well-known global brands, who have saturated the market with products over-marketed to Chinese customers.

One of your magazines focuses exclusively on luxury hotels in the United States. Which U.S. hotels are the most popular with Chinese travelers at the moment?

Luxury Hotels of America features in particular historical hotels, or hotels with a connection to the American culture. The kind of U.S. hotels that Chinese travelers like are boutique hotels, lodges, and ranches with a connection to nature and wildlife. We have seen a significant shift from standardized, large-size hotel chains to much smaller hotels offering a personalized experience. In New York City, we have seen that hotels in Brooklyn, built in former factories, in “hip” neighborhoods were a great success with Chinese travelers, as well as properties in the American West, offering a genuine local experience.

How was this season’s Golden Week for luxury hoteliers and retailers in the United States?

We have recently discussed with several well-known retailers in the United States, and they have been surprised by the evolution of the shopping behavior of Chinese customers and their use of social media to compare brands and know exactly where to buy. It was not uncommon for them to see Chinese customers with their iPads and mobile phones texting to their friends about brands and retailers. The digital integration of the shopping experience is now extremely important and mobile payments such as the Apple Pay will definitely be very popular with Chinese shoppers in the United States. Since the beginning, we have integrated our content with social media, and we are very pleased with this trend.

What are some ways in which U.S. luxury businesses are doing a good job of reaching and serving Chinese tourists? What are some ways in which they can improve?

U.S. luxury brands and luxury hotels can do much better! They are doing all right, and have a big margin to improve their relations with Chinese travelers on the three following points:

-No more stereotypes about Chinese tourists. A lot of U.S. hospitality, tourism, and retail companies still create marketing campaigns with the stereotype in mind of group tourists traveling in coaches, staying in cheap hotels, with entirely pre-arranged shopping programs. Most Chinese travelers do not want to travel this way anymore and choose themselves their hotels and their shopping experiences, without the help of travel agencies.

-Chinese travelers to the United States are looking for a genuine American experience. Some U.S. hotel chains have developed programs specifically for Chinese travelers with rooms decorated in a Chinese style, offer Chinese food only, and entertainment programs linked with Chinese culture. This is exactly the opposite of what Chinese tourists really want. They write to our editors and complain with us that they want to find a real American experience in hotels, not a “fake” Chinese experience! They have traveled for thousands of miles to have a taste of American culture and civilization.

-A more sophisticated and thoughtful marketing strategy with Chinese customers. U.S. luxury brands must understand that, in order to sell to Chinese tourists in the United States, they must start to promote and do branding in China, with specialized digital media targeting Chinese travelers planning their trip to the United States. It’s too late and very little effective to promote their brands in printed magazines or tourist guides distributed in airports or hotel lobbies, because the purchase decisions have already been made several weeks ago, in China. Digital native advertisement (sponsored content) is also very effective to create brand awareness. Chinese customers are early adopters of the newest technologies, and old-school marketing does not work and looks “uncool” to them. Social media integration and sponsored content are the two pillars of a successful campaign with Chinese tourists coming to the United States.

Source: Jing Daily

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American Philanthropy, new magazine for wealthy Chinese interested to donate to U.S. Philanthropies and Charities

American Philanthropy First Issue CoverChina Elite Focus Magazines LLC, the leading publisher in luxury travel and lifestyle magazines for affluent Chinese travelers, announces the official launch of its latest publication “American Philanthropy”.

“We know that a significant part of our readers of both publications, Shanghai Travelers’ Club and Luxury hotels of America are Chinese businessmen who are currently involved with philanthropies in China and that they are also interested to continue their involvement with charities and philanthropies in the United States,” said the CEO and publisher, Pierre Gervois. “That’s why we felt the need to launch a new publication, focused entirely on philanthropic issues along with curated lifestyle content about the United States.”

American Philanthropy magazine will feature exclusive articles about America’s most influential philanthropic organizations as well as profiles of American Philanthropists. The first issue introduces organizations such as New York Community Trust, National Philanthropic Trust, Bed Stuy’s Project Re-Generation and Graham Windham to highly affluent Chinese businessmen and donors. A renowned New York philanthropist – Nancy Heiser, also vice president of wealth management at UBS Bank, has the honors of the first cover story.

American Philanthropy magazine specifically caters to the new generation of international Chinese business executives doing business with the United States. This publication is available on all platforms such as iPad, web and on China’s most important social media network, Weibo.

“ Chinese business travelers coming to the United States want to have access to sophisticated information and this is not easily available in any Chinese publication or not available at all – until now,” said Pierre Gervois. “This magazine will give them insights on the crucial role of philanthropy in the United States, as well as its connections with politics and business.”

“American Philanthropy offers excellent advertising opportunities for U.S. companies interested in reaching to highly affluent Chinese businessmen planning or already doing business in the United States,” said Janavi Kothari, Advertising Sales Representative of American Philanthropy. “This publication is so far the most targeted magazine published in the U.S. with an unique readership of prominent business owners and top Chinese international executives.”

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With China Southern Airlines, more Chinese tourists in New York City

Niuyue Mag - China Elite Focus Magazines LLCIt’s no secret that investment by Chinese businesses in New York has helped both Chinese and US businesses flourish. Now China Southern Airlines and “I Love New York” - New York State’s tourism agency - have partnered up to promote global tourism in New York State. And it should be another shot in the arm for New York’s economy.
Around 1.8 million tourists from China visited the US last year. With an average spending of $3,297 per tourist per trip, they contributed $877 million to New York City’s economy alone, according to Attract China, a marketing company that helps businesses in the US establish an online presence to lure visitors from China.
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Aug 6 that China Southern Airlines and “I Love New York” were launching a partnership to promote New York State for global tourism and business. The partnership is in support of the Governor’s Global Tourism initiative.
The promotion officially got underway with China Southern Airlines celebrating its inaugural direct flight from Guangzhou to JFK International Airport, the airlines’ first ever direct service to the US’ East Coast.
“Collaborating with Asia’s largest airline will make everything that we have to offer more accessible to China’s bustling market, quite literally providing a gateway to the iconic Empire State,” Cuomo said.
“New York is experiencing record levels of tourism in both New York City and Upstate New York, and our administration will continue to foster this surge so that spending by visitors and investment by businesses can continue to grow local economies,” the governor added.
The partnership includes training key China Southern Airlines sales staff on New York State tourism highlights, enabling tour operators to offer New York State vacation travel options and collaborating on public relations efforts to promote New York.
China Southern Airlines Chairman Si Xianmin said: “We are thrilled to launch our direct route to New York City and partner with the governor in his initiative to promote Chinese tourism in New York, a state not only boasting epic skyscrapers but also one endowed with natural beauty and resources and one that harbors a culturally diverse and friendly people.”
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said: “This new marketing partnership with China Southern Airlines furthers our efforts to promote tourism across the state. There is so much to see and do in New York and we look forward to welcoming visitors from China to experience all of New York State’s rich history and culture.”
“China Southern Airlines and New York State have goal in common, and that is to get more people to come to New York,” said Gavin Landry, New York’s executive director of tourism.

” About 20% of the readers of Niuyue Mag come from Guangzhou”, says Pierre Gervois, CEO & Publisher of Niuyue Mag, a luxury lifestyle magazine about New York City in Chinese language. ” With this partnership, we’ll see more Chinese tourists in NYC. This is an excellent initiative”.
China Southern Airlines, the third-largest air carrier in the world, now has four direct flights a week from Guangzhou to New York. “China itself is a source market for global tourism,” said Landry, noting that it is on the top five list of countries with the most visitors to New York State.
“As the Chinese economy flourishes, there is a growing demand for travel,” said Landry.
Landry said the number of Chinese visitors coming to New York has been growing. “A million Chinese are already living in the New York City area, the Chinese diaspora provides a great opportunity for tourism as well. People have their relatives and family visiting,” said Landry.
Before the announcement of their partnership with China Southern Airlines, NY’s tourist board offered “Becoming China Ready” workshops to service the Chinese tourism market. The workshops in Albany, Utica, and Rochester were well-attended by the private sector, government agencies, and tourism and hospitality organizations learning how to understand and promote themselves to the Chinese market.
Earlier this year, “I Love New York” established offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
“I think more Chinese visitors will be a tremendous help to the economy,” said Charles Mon, vice-president of Sino-American Tours based in Manhattan. “More tourists from China will also benefit the cruise industry.”

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US retailers welcome Chinese shoppers for the 4th of July

Chinese shoppersYin Jie, a 35 y.o. Chinese tourist from Beijing, is looking at the Niuyue Mag black and blue sticker on the window of a fashion designer store in SoHo “If they have been recommended by Niuyue Mag, I know it’s a very creative brand” she says with a big smile, watching her iPad with the Spring issue of Niuyue Mag.

Chinese shoppers are expected to provide the much-needed momentum for retail sales in the US on Friday, even as most Americans celebrate their country’s 238th birthday with fireworks, cookouts and parades.
“We have received calls from several Chinese shoppers about July 4 sales,” said Jim Anderson, marketing director of the Chicago-based Fashion Outlets. “Many US retailers have already started Independence Day sales, and we expect the deals to continue through the holiday weekend..
A manager at the upscale-luxury South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, who did not want to reveal her name, said that the number of Chinese tourists, especially independent travelers, goes up during the Independence Day period.

The Fourth of July week is considered to be a boom period for retailers in New York. “Short-term four-day travel packages, especially ones with Woodbury Common on the route, have become extremely popular with Chinese tourists,” said Jasmine Xu, assistant manager of EWorld Tours, one of the largest Chinese-owned travel agencies in New York.
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, located in Central Valley, New York, about an hour and a half outside of Manhattan, has 220 high-end stores and is owned by Premium Outlets, a subsidiary of Simon Property Group. This year, Woodbury’s sales will run until Sunday, and offer an additional 25 percent to 65 percent discount on top of their everyday savings on brands like Armani, Fendi and Burberry.
“On Monday, we had 15 Chinese tour groups at the Woodbury outlets, and on the first day of the sale, there were more than 20 tour groups from China,” said Jean Guinup, the regional vice-president for the northeast region at Simon.

“We may see even more than that, and it’s the same for all the Simon Premium Outlets on the East Coast and West Coast,” Guinup said.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of Chinese people going to Woodbury during Independence Day, based on our experience last year,” said Laurie Heller, marketing manager of Coach USA Short Line. “Many of them come especially when there are big sales, like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.”
“I got to know about the huge sale happening there and decided to go and shop for brands like Coach, Tommy Hilfiger and Juicy Couture,” said Wang Xinji, a Chinese tourist from Shanghai, who was waiting with her boyfriend at the Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan for the shuttle bus to Woodbury Common on the first day of the sale.

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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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