Luxury hospitality guru Pierre Gervois on how to cater to Chinese tourists in the U.S.

Watch Pierre Gervois’ exclusive interview for China News

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Chinese tourists spend more than $1Billion in Los Angeles last year.

Shanghai Travelers Club magazine - March 2016 coverChinese tourists have been making their presence felt around the world but one place they can’t seem to get enough of is Los Angeles, California.

780,000 Chinese tourists visited L.A. last year, spending more than $1.1 billion. Last year also marked the first year that China overtook Canada as the city’s second-largest source of international tourists.

Los Angeles has long promoted itself as a tourist destination in China, and was the first city in the world to open a tourism office in the country in 2006. At the time, 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,” said Ernest Wooden Jr, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. “They are one of our best visitors, and that’s why we have such a focus on our marketing efforts in China.”

To that end, aggressive marketing efforts called “China Ready” and “Nihao China” are currently targeting cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in order to boost numbers even more.

Lisa Pisaturo, director of international and domestic tourism sales at Universal Studios Hollywood, said she expects the number of Chinese tourists to continue to grow.

“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.”

In 2014, about 7,000 Chinese tourists visited Orange County in an eight day trip, breaking records at the time. The event was estimated to have earned $85 million for the Anaheim area in which the 7,000 attendees had filled 13,000 to 14,000 hotel room at some 30 area hotels.

Even Los Angeles fashion brands like Sharpe have now Chinese fans: The Cover of the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine of this month’s issue (March 2016) is about Sharpe and features a full story about this brand created by Leon Wu in Los Angeles.

Source: Charles Liu, The Nanfang & China Daily / Chinese tourists blog

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2016 year of U.S. tourism for Chinese tourists boosts travel to NYC

Shanghai Travelers Club - Whyte hotel brooklyn

An article about the Whyte Hotel in Brooklyn published in the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine (March 2016 issue)

If there was just one thing the world’s two largest economies could agree on both wanting, tourism would be it.

China and the United States announced this week in Beijing that 2016 will be the year of mutual tourism promotion, one of the outcomes of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States last year.

The focus on tourism between the two countries come as overseas travel booms in China, in fact more Chinese vacation abroad than any other nation. More than 120 million Chinese traveled abroad last year, up 12 percent year on year, and they spent $104.5 dollars, up 16.7 percent over the same period.

“The scale and the speed with which the market grow is quite remarkable,” said Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Co., the agency responsible for promoting New York City, the top US destination city for Chinese travelers.

Despite New York being the top destination less than 3 percent of Chinese outbound tourists go to the United States. The Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand are much more popular choices, partly because of their proximity.

Despite this, Chinese visitors to the United States has been growing at a double digit rate over the past few years.

In 2015, 2.67 million Chinese visited the United States, compared with less than 400,000 in 2007. Goldman Sachs estimates that the number of Chinese visitors will almost double to 5 million by 2025.

This growth prospect has excited tourism players across the States. Many have sent delegations to China and the news about the tourism exchange will no doubt see them double down their promotional efforts.

“New York City is definitely the #1 dream destination in 2016 for Chinese travelers” said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a luxury travel publication for affluent Chinese travelers planning a trip to the United States. “The attractivity of NYC is extremely stong for all categories of Chinese travelers, from Chinese  real estate investors to students. We now publish more than 30% of our editorial content about NYC, per request from our readers”, Gervois added.

Travel agencies and tourism promoters say a more powerful boost to Chinese tourists inflow to the US is visa relaxation. In November 2014, the two countries extended visa validity for tourists from one to 10 years.

This policy has pushed up the share of Chinese travelling to the United States purely for leisure. Data compiled by various popular destination cities in the United States show that for Chinese visitors, leisure travelers have begun to outnumber business travelers in many places.

“The 10 year visa extension is really a game changer,” Dixon said, adding that the relaxation has paved the way for more Chinese to visit the United States for pure leisure and on their own, instead of on business trips or organized group tours.

Chinese online travel service provider Ctrip also reported a surge in US visa application through its platform between January to August last year following the visa relaxation.

With more tourists heading to American shores on their own, tourism promoters say they are reviewing their messages here in China. While travel agencies are still valuable partners, they have begun to engage with prospective travellers directly.

“In the very beginning our work was very much about working closely with the trade on the group side, but now we are seeing a move toward independent travel,” Dixon said.

That shift led promoters to prioritize their online presence, as websites, social media and apps have become prime channels for information and planning.

More than 259 million Chinese booked their travel online last year, of which 80 percent did so on their mobile devices, according to China Internet Network Information Center.

The demographics are changing too. China’s outbound travel boom is fueled mostly by a new generation of travelers. 67 percent of China’s overseas tourists in 2014 were born after 1980s, data compiled by Goldman Sachs show.

All these changes impact travel decisions. Promoters say group travelers want to see iconic sites and things they have seen on TV and in the movies. But reaching out to the new generation of savvy Chinese outbound travelers takes more than that.

The appeal for them, Dixon said, lies beneath the surface, in lesser known communities, parks and museums that add more personal character to their travel experience.

“This is an exciting time,” he said. “You don’t often see a market emerge the way China has. And we probably won’t see anything like this again.”

“Retaurants for hipsters in Brooklyn & boutique hotels in former industrial buildings are now packed with Chinese travelers: This is the future” concluded Pierre Gervois

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United targeting more Chinese passengers

United - Shanghai Travelers Club magazineUnited Airlines aims to woo more Chinese flyers after agreeing a deal to offer Alipay online payments on its Chinese language website.
United has partnered with Ant Financial, the Alibaba unit which operates the Alipay platform, giving United access to more than 400 million registered Alipay users.
Users on the United website can click the ‘Pay with Alipay,’ button which connects to a user’s debit card, credit card or a cash balance on their account.
“This exciting new partnership with Ant Financial’s Alipay is another good example of our strong commitment as we prepare to celebrate 30 years of doing business in China in 2016,” said Walter Dias, United’s managing director for sales in Greater China and Korea.
“I am confident that this service enhancement will offer more Chinese consumers the chance to travel to the U.S. along with our convenient China-U.S. flight schedules and Chinese services, both on the ground and in the air.”
More than 2.5 million Chinese visitors came to the US in 2015 and that figure is set to rise significantly this year, especially as 2016 has been designated ‘2016 China-US Tourism Year.’
This is a joint effort by the two governments to encourage more travel between the US and China, supported by the recent easing of visa restrictions.
Source: Travel Mole.

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How to fly free, forever (hint: put US$170 million on your AmEx)

american_express_black_card- Shanghai Travelers' ClubChinese billionaire Liu Yiqian, who doesn’t exactly struggle to afford a plane ticket, can now likely fly free, in first class, with his whole family, anywhere in the world, for the rest of his life.

All because he bought a painting. Liu was the winning bidder for Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude at a Christie’s auction this month — offering US$170.4 million — and when the sale closes he’ll be putting it on his American Express card.

Liu, a high-profile collector of Chinese antiquities and art, has used his AmEx in the past when he’s won art auctions. He put a US$36 million tea cup from the Ming Dynasty on his AmEx last year, according to reports, and put other artifacts on his card this year. He and his wife said they plan on using their American Express card to pay for the Modigliani, according to news reports after the sale.

American Express will not confirm Liu Yiqian’s Modigliani purchase, or say if it would be the biggest ever on their cards, citing privacy reasons. But it can be done.

“In theory, it’s possible to put a (US$170 million purchase) on an American Express card,” said American Express spokeswoman Elizabeth Crosta. “It is based on our relationship with that individual card member and these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on our knowledge of their spending patterns.”

Liu has an American Express Centurion Card, also known as the AmEx “black card,” an invitation-only card that is given only to AmEx’s biggest spending clients. The card has no official credit limit — and it earns points, just like most of the cards non-billionaires carry around.

Each AmEx card issued in each country accrues points differently. But using a baseline of one point per dollar, what American Express uses for its US Platinum and Centurion Cards, Liu will earn 170,400,000 Membership Reward points for his painting purchase, which doesn’t include tax or the fees Christie’s charges. He has likely earned tens of millions of points for his earlier fine art buys, like the expensive tea cup.

“In 2015, the readers of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club  have spent $520M in expenses overseas, and we know many of them have AmEx Centurion cards, but we can’t disclose their names” said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a Chinese language only digital ultra-luxury magazine.

Liu and his wife, in an interview with the New York Times, said they plan to use the points to allow their family to travel for the rest of their lives.

That shouldn’t be a problem, according to Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of the travel rewards site ThePointsGuy.com.

“He’s probably reached that goal with that single painting,” Honig says.

Honig estimates that if Liu converted his Membership Rewards points into one of a number of airline frequent flier programs, he and his family could travel anywhere, in style. He could fly 3,000 times between the US and Europe in the ultra-deluxe first class suites offered by Singapore Airlines (estimated cost: US$17,800 round trip), if he converted points to Singapore’s program. Even if Liu wanted to use his AmEx points to pay for flights, a less efficient use of them, he could still redeem those points for hundreds of first class flights anywhere in the world.

Source: Kelvin Chan / AP.  ALL rights reserved

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More content about luxury travel to the United States in 2016 in the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine

Shanghai Travelers' Club magazine coversThe Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, the Chinese language publication read by China’s Elite global travelers has disclosed its much anticipated 2016 Editorial calendar yesterday. And clearly, Affluent Chinese travelers love the United States! According to Pierre Gervois, the New York City based Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this publication “The new generation of Chinese business travelers have clearly chosen the United States as their strategic country for their business browth. We have seen in the past two years a very strong interest from Chinese corporations – and wealthy Chinese invividuals- to invest in the United States. The more they come to the U.S. for business, the more they tend to come back with their family for a U.S. luxury leisure experience”

It’s no more just about luxury shopping: Philanthropy and real estate investment are also hot topics. The January 2016 issue will have “Philanthropy in America” as its main feature. “Many Chinese CEO’s residing in the U.S. are willing to create their own philanthropic foundations in America, as they used to do in China. We’ll publish stories to help them to understand how to create a charity organization with all the necessary partners: banks, wealth management advisors & attorneys” added Pierre Gervois.

Driving a vintage 1960 Cadillac on Road 66 is also part of a true luxury American experience. (You can also rent a brand new Cadillac SUV). The march 2016 issue will feature a “Luxury road trip to America” story. Ralph Lauren ripped Jeans, Louis Vuitton beaten up keepall bag, vintage Rolex, Room 101 skull necklace, a motel with neon signs, this is America.

After the success of the September 2015 men’s fashion issue “The Gentleman Traveler”, The September 2016 issue will also feature a Men’s fashion special edition, with in depth stories about America’s best fashion designers. “Having a tailor made business suit made in USA makes a statement for Chinese global business executives” said Tyron Cutner, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine Men’s Fashion Editor.

Real Estate is probably the hottest topic for Chinese travelers. They invested $22Billion in real estate last year (including the $2Billion Waldorf Astoria building and it’s growing fast. Very fast. The november 2016 issue will feature the most expensive houses and apartments in the United States ($15M+), as well as profiles of New York City best real estate attorneys  and U.S. interior architects.

“Winter Holidays in the American West” will introduce snow experiences in the American West: Colorado, Nevada or Arizona are beautiful in winter time and very desirable destinations for Chinese frequent travelers to the U.S. who had already visited New York and Los Angeles multiple times and want to experience a truly authentic American Christmas time.

Request the 2016 Editorial Calendar & Media Kit of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine here.

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Bloomingdale’s leading the way in marketing to affluent Chinese tourists

Bloomingdale's - Shanghai Travelers Club magazineWe have all seen these cheezy advertising campaigns made by department stores or western brands trying to attract Chinese tourists in the last years: Be assured that affluent Chinese tourists were also smiling…  But it is going to change. Exit the low quality shopping publications targeted to Chinese tourists that ended in the hotel rooms trash bins. U.S. and European Luxury brands and high end retailers start now to advertise seriously with affluent Chinese tourists.

Although luxury sales in mainland China have still remained in slowdown mode in 2015, and Hong Kong has recorded a significant slump as well, Chinese spending remains a potent force in the global luxury industry, propping up growth rates in developed markets worldwide.
This week, Hermès reported a 22 percent increase in global sales in the second quarter, with sales in Japan leaping 33 percent—a figure attributed in large part to an influx of big-spending Chinese tourists attracted by a weaker yen and easier travel. On a global scale, Chinese travelers are spending lavishly: a recent Global Blue report found that Chinese tourist spending jumped 87.8 percent in June, while spending on leather goods in Europe grew by an even more staggering 93.7 percent. Year-to-date spending growth sits at a whopping 110 percent.
These numbers contrast sharply with the situation in mainland China and Hong Kong, one that is particularly striking in formerly triumphant Hong Kong. Last week, Burberry reported a “double-digit percentage decline” there for the three months ending in June, while sales of Swiss watches in the former British colony were down 21.2 percent in June, despite 3.3 percent growth worldwide.

These numbers further support the trend that growth is following Chinese tourists abroad, and brands need to keep up with their changing location preferences for travel—engaging outbound shoppers before they leave China and when they arrive overseas. Recent stats also illustrate the ever-shifting tides of Chinese travel patterns. Whereas Japan was, just a few years ago, faced with a Chinese tourist slump (caused in no small part by Sino-Japanese political tensions), the country is seeing a wave of Chinese arrivals and spending, owing to cooling attitudes toward Hong Kong and South Korea’s currency fluctuations and MERS outbreak.
Amid these rapid and unpredictable changes, what is clear is that brands need to have plans in place to quickly jump on opportunities, and ensure they’re able to reach and influence the Chinese outbound consumer wherever he or she happens to be in the world.
“Luxury retailers like Bloomingdale’s have well understood the importance of targeting affluent Chinese tourists”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a high end publication in Chinese language for High Net Worth Chinese global travelers. “Bloomindale’s and the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine have launched a very creative marketing and PR campaign this spring showing actual Chinese customers and what it feels like to shop at the iconic Bloomingdale’s store in NYC.” Gervois added. This campaign has generated a considerable attention on Chinese social media and is the first ever campaign focused on the Chinese customer and the overall shopping experience in a U.S. luxury retailer. An example to follow for the industry.

Source: Jing Daily / The New Chinese Tourist / Chinese Tourists Blog

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