Monthly Archives: December 2008

Sacramento region expects surge in Chinese tourists in 2009

Relaxed travel rules between the United States and China have opened the door to Chinese tour groups for the first time.
The new rules could mean tens of millions of dollars for Northern California, a gateway for Chinese coming to America ever since the Gold Rush.
Before the new rules, Chinese were allowed to visit the United States only on business, to see relatives or by special invitation from universities or other public institutions. Under a U.S.-China agreement reached in  last December, Chinese tourists can now come on organized trips to the United States just for leisure.
Last year,  40 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad, but only 300,000 came to the United States because of the old visa restrictions, said Defa Tong, spokesman for the People’s Republic of China’s Consulate General in San Francisco.

That number is expected to double in the next several years, and with the average tourist spending $198 a day in the United States, Tong said. “It’s a huge market.”
The new Chinese tourists could spend as much as $60 million a year in Sacramento alone, according to data provided by the U.S. Commerce Department and the California Department of Tourism.
Northern California, home to 500,000 Chinese Americans, will likely be a first stop for many of them as it has been for generations.

By the 1940s, about 3,000 Chinese farmers and factory workers lived around Locke, which had fish markets, herb shops, casinos, boarding houses and the Star Theatre.
By the 1990s, Locke was nearly a ghost town until Shanghai painter Ning Hou breathed new life into its rickety streets with his gallery and art school.
But Locke – for all its history and charm – isn’t enough for Sacramento to take advantage of the growing tourist market, Yee said.
Yee is leading the charge for the “Yee Fow Center for History, Culture and Trade,” which would be located not far from the site of Sacramento’s original Chinatown.
“We don’t really have a place we can bring Chinese tourists unless you take them to Locke,” said Pat Fong-Kushida, president of the 700-member Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce.
Yee, Fong-Kushida and other Asian Americans are hoping a new 240-acre development planned for the railyard will include a center honoring Chinese contributions to California.

Still, Sacramento could easily draw 10,000 to 20,000 new Chinese tourists in the next year, said Richard Champley, senior research analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“They may want to come and see the governor,” said Champley.

His agency figures that Chinese visitors typically spend “in the neighborhood of $6,000 per visitor per trip, including $3,000-$4,000 a person on hotels, food and rental cars.”

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American Airlines targets affluent Chinese travelers

Our blog has had the pleasure to obtain an exclusive interview from Mr Victor Lee, American Airlines Greater China’s Regional Director, based in Shanghai. As the United States are one of the favorite destination of the Chinese travelers for both business and leisure, we wanted to know more about the strategy of American Airlines in China.

Since  April 2006, American Airlines operates a daily flight from Shanghai Pudong to Chicago O’Hare. In 2010, a new flight route will be open from Beijng to Chicago, to give more options to the Chinese travelers.

“The expansion of our network to China is a profoundly significant event that strengthens American as a global competitor and further enhances Chicago as one of the nation’s foremost international gateways,” said Mr Victor Lee. “With daily nonstop service between Chicago and Shanghai, China’s largest and most dynamic business center, we will provide broad new access to China for tens of thousands of passengers and shippers in cities large and small, stimulating the market and building strong new commercial and cultural ties between our two countries.” Mr Lee added.

For now, the main part of the Chinese travelers from Shanghai were business travelers, but, with the new recent US visa policy opening the doors to Chinese tourists groups, and the number of rich Chinese citizens in Shanghai, American Airlines is expecting a fast growing on this flight route, specially for the First and Business class Chinese travelers.

American Airlines operates the Shanghai flight using 245-seat Boeing 777-200 aircraft, the largest in American’s fleet. In First Class, the 777 features 16 Flagship Suite seats that transform into a fully flat six-foot, six-inch bed with drop-down armrests that allow for easier access and more sleeping space.

The new  Business Class offers ergonomically-advanced seat design. The new, highly adjustable, lie-flat seat allows passengers to customize the setting to their personal preference. Business Class Chinese passengers also will have convenient access to a number of amenities, including gourmet food, in-flight entertainment and power ports in every seat.

“American Airlines wants simply to offer the best service between China and the US”, said Mr Lee.

According to China Elite Focus analysts, it is crucial for the airlines to market their brand in China as luxury brands rather than to try to be the cheapest airline. American Airlines has choosen the appropriate strategy when they insist on the quality of their service and want to be seen by the Chinese travelers as a luxury brand among the other airlines.

Also, American Airlines has partnerships in the US with  more than one thousand hotels, resorts that gives to Chinese travelers a wide choice of business and leisure destinations in the US.

Interview conducted in Shanghai by Pierre Gervois, China Elite Focus Managing Partner & CEO, for the blog “Chinese tourists in America”

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