Category Archives: New York
Niuyue Cap on the head, Shanghai Travelers’ Club “Platinum” Card in hand, Wealthy Chinese tourists arrive in New York City
At the 5th avenue Cartier Flagship store, a Chinese customer in Gucci flip flops, Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and a Niuyue Mag Cap on his head is buying three gold “Tank” watches incrusted with diamonds “One for me, one for my wife, and one for my daughter, who is studying in Chicago”, he says with a big smile. “I’m also platinum member of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, he added ,“that gives me a VIP welcome in most of luxury stores here”.
Cultural training is imperative for New York-based luxury flagship store employees to build trust among affluent Chinese tourists and creating a custom experience for this group of travelers will help marketers gain brand loyalists, experts say.
Many luxury brands are focusing marketing efforts to Chinese consumers back at home, but with a rising wave of Chinese tourists coming to New York, it is important that brands cater to this group. Luxury marketers need to be more proactive to reach Chinese travelers by training employees and partnering with high-end travel services.
“New York flagships should be more aggressive in inviting and giving a fabulous experience to Chinese tourists,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York. “The city seems to be behind in attracting and nurturing Chinese consumers.
“New York has been slow to appeal to Chinese tourists, even though there is such as large Chinese population in the city,” he said.
“Retailers need to create personal, emotional connections with these consumers by nurturing them and caring for them, which will create a lasting impression.”
In the capital cities of European countries, luxury flagship stores get 50 percent of their value from Chinese tourists, per Mr. Pedraza.
Europeans have been smart in the way they care for Chinese tourists, who tend to buy in volume on shopping trips.
Meanwhile, the United States has not been as open to tourists in its efforts and may have suffered, given the economic times.
According to Pierre Gervois, author of “How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists”, “The U.S. travel and tourism industry has understood the financial power of the new generation of affluent Chinese inbound tourists, and how it can give a boost to the country’s economy, but needs to improve the way Chinese visitors are welcomed and understand better the intercultural issues of marketing”
In the past, European tourists were key for New York-based retailers, but tourism from Europe is on the decline. Travelers from China are now the largest group of tourists in New York, and Indian tourists are another group to look out for in the next decade.
To get Chinese consumers into New York flagship stores, luxury brands should partner with high-end hotels, tour operators and restaurants to keep the brand top-of-mind, according to Mr. Pedraza.
But the marketing strategy for luxury retailers also starts in China, when affluent Chinese travelers are planning their NYC shopping trip, and use Chinese social media networks such as Niuyue Mag, with 200,000 registered members, giving shopping tips and specific insights to Chinese shoppers.
Also airports, limos and hotel concierges play a major role in influencing affluent Chinese tourists since these are all stops on the journey to New York.
“There is no question that luxury brands should be using print and their Web sites to attract tourists to their New York stores by showing the experience that they can expect,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“The travel industry is also a huge opportunity,” he said. “Luxury brands have to romance travel agents to get on the map within the travel industry.”
“Brands need to do a better job at creating these partnerships with travel-oriented brands.” Once in-store, affluent Chinese tourists will need to be made comfortable. To do so, New York flagship stores should start by training their staff on the Chinese culture and traditions.
Stores should have, at minimum, Mandarin-speaking employees and may also want to train in other dialects from Asia.
“Employees should be well-educated in relationship building, not just to process tourist transactions, but to develop longtime relationships with the brand,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“There are luxury brand stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, so these tourist transactions are not a one-shot deal,” he said. “They can also be relationship building.”
Luxury retailers should be aware of the Chinese holiday calendar to understand buying habits during certain holidays and target Chinese consumers for in-store gift buying, per Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.
The holiday calendar may also hint at the time when Chinese tourists are more likely to travel.
Training sales associates on cultural greetings can quickly build trust with incoming tourists and encourage foot traffic.
Stores should also offer in-store shipping options so that Chinese consumers can ship items home. This will eliminate the need to pay sales tax and leave the customer more room in their luggage, per Mr. Morris.
“Not only is the size of the luxury market in China significant, but it continues to grow with a burgeoning middle class aspiring to own luxury brands to demonstrate their wealth,” Mr. Morris said.
“New York is a unique, international city where tourists can readily find bilingual associates,” he said. “By focusing on hiring multilingual staff, a retailer has the opportunity to offer exceptional customer service and make the customer comfortable shopping in the store.”
Source: Chinese Tourists Blog
Over five days in January, a group of visitors to New York was treated to a private concert with the pianist Lang Lang at the Montblanc store, cocktails and a fashion show attended by the designers Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg, and a tour of Estée Lauder’s original office. They were not celebrities. They were not government officials. They were Chinese tourists with a lot of money.
Though luxury brands started opening stores in Beijing and Shanghai years ago, Chinese shoppers still spend more on luxury products abroad than they do at home, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. Price is the major reason: Because of China’s taxes, luxury products are about a third cheaper in the United States and elsewhere.
European luxury stores have been catering to Chinese tourists for years. Now high-end retailers in the United States are pulling out their Mandarin phrase books and trying to convince Chinese visitors that Americans can do luxury, too.
“What started as a trickle has now become a flow,” said the vice president of the antiques store Macklowe Gallery, Ben Macklowe, who recently sold a Tiffany lamp that cost in the low six figures to a Shanghai visitor. “There’s been prosperity across so much of Asia that you’re starting to see it much more in the profile of the tourist on Madison Avenue.”
A record number of Chinese visited the United States last year — nearly 1.1 million — and the country accounts for one of the top-growing tourist groups here, according to the Commerce Department. The number of visitors is expected to almost double by 2014, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Chinese visitors spend about $6,000 each on every visit here, versus the $4,000 that visitors from other countries spend on average, the association says, and their top activity is shopping.
Although some tourists spend money on Disney trinkets and at the outlet malls they have traditionally frequented, luxury brand purchases are surging in part because American stores carry a broader range of products than their counterparts in China, said Julia Zhu, consulting director for Frost & Sullivan.
Tiffany, which made almost a quarter of its United States revenue last year from foreign tourists, has added Mandarin-speaking sales staff to its major stores, as has Burberry, where more than half of sales at its flagship stores are to tourists. Representatives from Tourneau’s Manhattan office recently accompanied New York City officials on a visit to China to encourage more tourism in the city.
The very popular Chinese social media network “Niuyue Mag” (纽约志), used by the young and affluent Chinese tourists preparing their trip to New York City had also a role in promoting the Big Apple as a major luxury shopping destination. According to Sandra Ming, analyst at China Elite Focus, “the impact of Niuyue Mag has been tremendous as it’s for now the only one media available in China exclusively about the planning of a shopping trip in New York City”
At its United States stores, Montblanc sells Year of the Dragon pens and has staff members who speak Mandarin and Cantonese. It is also printing Chinese-language brochures about its products and selling wallets sized for Chinese currency.
Despite having more than 100 stores in China, Montblanc is going after Chinese shoppers on vacation abroad. “Yes, we are in the major cities, but when you travel, you’re in the mood to enjoy and experience the moment,” said Jan-Patrick Schmitz, chief executive of Montblanc North America. “We certainly will do more and more marketing toward them.”
Retailers in the United States lag behind other countries. Part of that is because of visa issues; it is easier for Chinese residents to get visas to Europe. High-end American retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s are urging the government to speed up the process here. President Obama said in January that he planned to increase visa-processing capacity from emerging markets like China and Brazil by 40 percent this year.
The American stores also have to overcome an idea that luxury can come only from the old world.
“The European brands, they see prestige, history, heritage,” said Sunny Wong, group managing director of Trinity, a company that owns and operates high-end European retail brands in China. American brands, by contrast, are seen as “contemporary, lifestyle” rather than pure luxury, he said.
American retailers are racing to prove Mr. Wong wrong.
How to attract more Chinese tourists to the U.S.? Chinese Digital Media or Traditional Travel Agencies?
Inbound travel to the U.S. from China is skyrocketing. Arrivals from China are forecast to increase a whopping 274% between 2012 and 2016. It’s the fastest growth –– by far –– of any country, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“If Chinese people have not visited the U.S., they feel they haven’t really seen the world,” said Haybina Hao, director of international development for NTA.
Most first-time visitors to the U.S. opt for group tours sold by Chinese travel retailers. But independent travel is gaining in popularity, Hao told Travel Market Report, in a recent interview at the NTA Visit USA Center in Shanghai.
According to Pierre Gervois, from China Elite Focus, a Shanghai based agency providing marketing services to international travel agencies willing to attract more Chinese tourists, “The fastest growing segment of Chinese travelers is the category of affluent travelers, from the upper-middle class. They tend to rely more on on-line travel agencies, and don’t really trust traditional Chinese travel agencies to advise them on their trip.” “The best way of catching the interest of these new Chinese travelers is a presence on key Chinese social media, and to have the destination endorsed by influent Chinese Travel Bloggers”, Gervois added.
Hao, who works out of the NTA’s Lexington, Ky., office, was in China to participate in a series of road shows for travel agents and consumers.
Return visitors are adventuresome
The typical first-time traveler spends an average of two weeks in the U.S., according to Hao. Their standard itinerary includes some combination of New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Repeat visitors are decidedly more adventurous, often focusing on activities such as golfing, skiing and driving, Hao said.
Some repeat visitors are giving new meaning to the concept of fly-drive packages.
Earlier this year, groups of Chinese visitors traveled to York, Penn., for a tour of Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle factory, then saddled up a fleet of hogs and rode to Philadelphia as part of a group itinerary, Hao said.
Affluent visitors take to the skies
Another trend among repeat visitors includes tours that are organized around flying private planes.
According to Pierre Gervois, from China Elite Focus,
Hao explained that while consumers can earn a pilot’s license in China, airspace restrictions and a lack of facilities make it all but impossible to actually spend time in the air behind the controls.
Hao has seen an increase in affluent Chinese visitors who travel to the U.S. to put their pilot licenses to use.
Agent education in second-tier cities
While these metropolitan areas have populations that approach 10 million, most travelers prefer to work with travel agencies in Shanghai and Beijing because the second-tier cities often lack sufficient travel agency services, she said.
It is the goal of the Visit USA Center to change that.
The Visit USA Center staff recently completed a round of presentations for consumers and agents in second-tier cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Shenyang and Dalian, Hao said.
The events were held in conjunction with U.S. suppliers, including Disneyland Park, tourism representatives from the state of Georgia, Hilton Hotels, and five West Coast-based tour operators that specialize in in-bound Chinese travel.
Building leisure travel
The mission of the Visit USA Center, which opened in Shanghai in January, is to foster leisure travel from China to the U.S.
Key strategies included facilitating relationships between travel professionals in both countries and marketing the U.S. as a tourism destination to Chinese consumers. The Visit USA Center also maintains a website in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and English.
Warnings on cut-rate trips
A recent focus of the Visit USA Center is helping travelers understand that cut-rate itineraries often do not provide the best travel value and experience.
“Chinese people are very careful with their money, and they negotiate hard with travel agencies for lower-price options,” she said. In the past, retailers have promoted tours that offer low-cost per diem rates, but hit travelers with expensive add-ons once they are in the U.S.
“Don’t forget that the old image of the Chinese customer always bargaining for a low price is vastly a stereotype” said Gervois. “The new generation of affluent Chinese travelers want high quality travel services and are perfectly ready to pay for them”, he added.
Jewellery-hungry Chinese tourists fuelled a surge in US sales at Tiffany this summer, helping the luxury retailer produce robust second quarter profits in spite of a weak economic backdrop.
Tiffany raised its annual earnings outlook on Friday as customers shrugged off economic concerns and continued to purchase its luxury items. The company’s second-quarter performance exceeded the expectations of Wall Street analysts and its shares jumped 7.51 per cent to $67.85 in early trading in New York.
“We are extremely pleased by these results which confirm the growing global appeal of Tiffany’s product offerings,” Michael Kowalski, Tiffany chief executive, said. “We have been able to absorb precious metal and gemstone cost increases while improving our gross and operating margins.”
Outside the US, fears about weak demand were unjustified. Sales in Japan, which was battered by an earthquake and tsunami in March, rose 21 per cent from a year ago. Europe, where many consumers have been hit by government spending cuts, also showed strong growth with sales climbing 32 per cent.
Sales in the Americas rose 25 per cent from a year ago, while sales in Asia were up 55 per cent .
In the US, Tiffany said that more than half of the sales increase was due to increased spending by foreign travellers, led by Chinese tourists. Sales of items priced above $20,000 and $50,000 showed “notable strength”, the company said.
“We were bracing for pockets of weakness, little indications of the macro story coming home to roost in a retailer than has been on fire for longer than a year,” said Brian Sozzi, retail analyst at Wall Street Strategies. “At the moment, we are hard pressed to find negative aspects to the quarter, only a bunch of interesting positives.”
“We have monitored the needs of wealthy Chinese tourists in the U.S. for the last two years and the first items they buy during their leisure trip in the U.S. are high end jewels and watches. This is a very good news for the American luxury retail industry”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus.
Paul Lejuez, retail analyst at Nomura, said that the 41 per cent year-on-year sales increase at Tiffany’s flagship store in New York was the largest since 1990, when he began tracking the company. Calling their sales “off the charts”, he said that Tiffany, which operates 236 stores around the world, could probably increase its prices further without suffering a significant sales slowdown.
“There certainly are a lot of people out there with a lot of money who are looking to spend it,” Mr Lejuez said. “People look at their merchandise as having some innate value, and that goes a long way.”
“Despite continuing economic uncertainty, our strong first-half performance gives us ample reason to remain confident about our prospects for the balance of the year,” Mr Kowalski said.
Source: Financial Times
Global hotel chains, airlines and luxury retailers can expect tens of millions of new customers from China in the coming years, but few Western companies are prepared for this influx or have a clear understanding of exactly what Chinese tourists require and expect for their yuan. In the United States, where one million Chinese tourists will arrive in 2011 to visit the country for leisure trips (and with an average of $6,000 in their pockets ready to be injected in the Nation’s economy), very few travel marketers are ready for that.
The growing number of affluent Chinese travelers “will completely change the face of tourism,” especially in hot destinations such as New York, Las Vegas, London and Paris, said Pierre Gervois, president-CEO of China Elite Focus, which specializes in affluent Chinese outbound tourism. “There will be an influx of wealthy travelers.”
China will overtake Japan as the world’s second-biggest tourism market by 2013. Sixty-six million Chinese will travel overseas this year — a 15% increase over 2010 — and that number is expected to reach 100 million by 2020, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Just a few years ago, few Chinese went further than shopping excursions to Hong Kong or gambling junkets to Macau organized by budget tour group operators. Today, Chinese tourists are more likely to be affluent independent travelers looking for customized experiences along with the comforts of home.
“Everyone stands to benefit because the Chinese market is growing so fast,” said Bruce Ryde, general manager of InterContinental Hotels’ Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund, who appeared on this week’s episode of “Thoughtful China,” a video program produced in China.
But the global travel and tourism industry doesn’t understand these travelers yet. “The biggest issue is language,” Mr. Ryde said. “The Chinese traveler appreciates and needs a certain amount of translation [when] it comes to menus, hotel information and just general conversation. There needs to be some preparation.”
“The most important thing the hotels need to be thinking about is understanding and tapping into the cultural differences, and ensuring they understand what’s important to Chinese travelers,” said Gary Rosen, who recently resigned as senior VP and head of global operations for InterContinental Hotels Group.
Some hotel and retail chains have started to tap into this market. This summer both Hilton and Starwood introduced touches aimed at Chinese travelers such as stocking instant noodles, Chinese teas and tea kettles in mini-bars, offering Chinese TV channels and slippers in guest rooms, and serving congee (hot rice porridge) and dim sum at breakfast.
Food is especially important. Don’t be surprised, Mr. Gervois said, if Chinese tourists, both rich and poor, prefer instant noodles in the room over local cuisine.
Hilton and Starwood have also translated corporate websites, welcome letters and local sightseeing information into Chinese and hired dedicated front desk staff fluent in Mandarin.
The goal is to make them feel at home the same way Western hotel chains cater to Western travelers in Asia, said P.T. Black, “Thoughtful China’s” senior creative director in Shanghai. “If a hotel can provide Americans with a hamburger in Hanoi, then Chinese should get noodles in Nice.”
Luxury retailers and top tourism destinations such as the Louvre in Paris have followed suit. Many Chinese still don’t have Western credit cards, for example, so Harrods in London brought in 75 UnionPay machines “so Chinese can use their own local cards to get money out,” said Chloe Reuter, a luxury retail specialist based in Shanghai.
While Western companies struggle to adapt to Chinese travelers, Asian firms are trying to expand, such as Hong Kong-based Shangri-la Hotels & Resorts, which recently opened a five-star property in Paris.
“All the luxury hotels in Paris are really worried,” Mr. Gervois said. Their owners realize Shangri-la “knows exactly how to talk to wealthy Chinese travelers, what kind of food they expect, what kind of service they expect. I think Chinese brands with a lot of quality and content will really have big success expanding abroad.”
Foreign companies should also be working harder to provide online product information and reservation options in China, which has over 400 million internet users, Ms. Reuter said. There’s a missed opportunity for a global travel portal that curates news and information, she said. “Chinese spend hours, if not days, searching for information about where they want to go [but] no one is telling people, here’s your Chinese-language app for where you need to go shopping in Paris.”
Article by Normandy Madden, senior VP-content development, Asia/Pacific at Thoughtful China, and Ad Age’s former Asia editor. See earlier episodes of Thoughtful China here.
Chinese banks have poured more than $1 billion into real estate loans in New York City in the past year. Investors from China are snapping up luxury apartments and planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commercial and residential projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Chinese companies have signed major leases at the Empire State Building and at 1 World Trade Center, which is the centerpiece of the rebuilding at ground zero.
Delegations of Chinese officials and executives have been sweeping through the city, on a nearly weekly basis, assessing the markets, searching for office locations and meeting prospective partners and clients. Last month, officials and executives from China and the United States filled a ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria to make deals during a business conference.
“Everybody wants to come to New York because New York is the starting point for going global,” said Xue Ya, president of the China Center, a business and cultural organization that was the first tenant to sign a lease at 1 World Trade Center, where it will occupy six floors. Once established in New York, Mrs. Xue said, “you are a player.”
Even one of the region’s fastest growing construction companies is Chinese. The company, China Construction America, has won contracts on major public works projects, including the Tappan Zee and Alexander Hamilton Bridges, the No. 7 subway line extension and the $91 million Metro-North Railroad station at Yankee Stadium.
China Construction is a subsidiary of a state-controlled construction company in China. The wave of Japanese investment in the city a generation ago — epitomized by the purchase of a controlling stake in Rockefeller Center by the Mitsubishi Estate Company of Tokyo in 1989 — stirred anxiety and even xenophobia. Some New Yorkers saw it as evidence that the city and the country were losing their dominant positions.
This time, city officials are welcoming Chinese investment as a boon to the local economy. But in a report in May, the Asia Society and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars warned that on a national level, protectionist impulses and anti-China sentiment, particularly in Washington, could scare away investors.
Flush with capital from its enormous trade surpluses, China has been on an investment spree, especially in developing countries. While the size of China’s investments in the United States pales in comparison with investments by other countries, it has nevertheless been growing rapidly.
In one of the largest loans by a single lender in the city since 2008, the Bank of China lent $800 million late last year to refinance a building on Park Avenue housing JPMorgan Chase and Major League Baseball, analysts said. Among other deals, the Bank of China recently agreed to lend more than $250 million to refinance an office tower at 3 Columbus Circle.
Tourism from China is booming in New York as well, helping to sustain the hotel, restaurant and retail sectors. In 2010, 266,000 Chinese people visited the city, a 45 percent increase over 2009, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm.
Pierre Gervois, president of China Elite Focus, said that “Five star hotels and luxury retail stores in Manhattan are suddenly realizing that they have no strategy to attract wealthy Chinese tourists. They turn to us to understand better this very sophisticated clientele”.
High-end real estate agents are doing their best to accommodate the influx.
Pamela Liebman, president of the Corcoran Group, said her firm had fielded a “huge” increase in inquiries from wealthy Chinese looking for luxury residential properties, “some in the $30-million-plus range.”
“We went from zero to 200 miles per hour in six months,” she said. “This year, it’s the biggest buzz word in real estate: ‘Chinese.’ ”
Xiaolan Shang, an agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman, said that five years ago, she had very few international clients. Now, about 90 percent of her client base is Chinese — and most pay in cash.
“I’ve had people come to New York only for the weekend,” Ms. Shang recalled. “They see the apartment, they make the offer and right away they fly back to China.” “Cash deal,” she added. “Right away.”
Source: New York Times, article by Kirk Semple
The U.S. tourism industry needs to improve its service quality to gain a slice from China’s fast-growing group of tourists, industry and government officials said.
Service-quality and safety issues are key concerns and should be better addressed by tour agencies when more Chinese tourists start to arrive, Xinhong Zhang, office director of the National Tourism Administration in New York, said.
Sam Gong, chairman of the newly formed American Chinese Tourist Association, said that last year, 520,000 travelers from China visited the US and that could increase to 800,000 this year.
The association, which was launched in New York on Thursday, represents 70 companies of large travel agencies, transport firms, ticket companies and scenic spot operators in the US, employing more than 3,500 people. Association members hosts 80 percent of the total number of Chinese tourists to the US.
“Our member companies will double by next year,” Gong said that will empower the association to improve the service quality of the US tourism industry by forging industrial consensus and streamlining practices.
The US has become an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers since the arrival of the first Chinese tourist group in mid-2008 under a bilateral agreement of Approved Destination Status signed between the two countries in December 2007.
Chinese tourists usually visit the larger US cities, including New York, Washington DC, Los Angles, Chicago and San Francisco, bringing in billions of dollars to the US.
However, the soaring number of travel agencies has triggered fierce price wars. In mid-2008, the cost for a typical 14-day visit was $4,000 per tourist; today, it’s less than $3,000, leaving agencies with very slim profit margins or even losses.
This is a different story for VIP Chinese visitors who travel with business visas and can spend $100,000 in shopping on 5th avenue luxury retail stores. According to the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club “Wealthy Chinese travelers would never travel through regular travel agencies, but like to prepare themselves their luxury travel experiences in the US”, said Sally Huang, a Club’s executive.
This has resulted in sharp downgrading of service quality, with guides repeatedly lobbying tourists to go shopping as a way to gain commission, which in turn lead to complaints from the visitors. This may jeopardize long-term growth of the industry, Gong said.
The association will ask its members to avoid such practices, he said. Gong said efforts will be taken to improve the exchange of information between members and training of tour guides.
“What is being established now will define the way the industry shall operate in the future,” said Gong, who is general manager of the Galaxy Tour Inc, the largest inbound travel agency for Chinese tourists, which brought in more than 50,000 tourists a year.
Wang Yansheng, cultural counselor with China’s consulate-general in New York, said this is a timely launch and “we hope they could bridge the industry, the government and the consumers well”.
Between 2008 and last year, 600,000 travelers from China to the US spent a record $2.56 billion, with an average expenditure of $4,300 a person – more than residents from other nations, the US Commerce Department calculations show.
A surge of Chinese tourists is expected to visit New York City this year, prompting hoteliers and tour operators to better cater to the group by offering amenities from tea kettles in rooms to translated welcome packets.
NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization, expects a 20% increase in visitors from China this year compared with a weak 2009 when the recession cut business travel-the major impetus for Chinese travel to New York. If the estimate holds up, 223,000 tourists from China will come to New York this year, topping the 2008 record by a small margin.
Nationwide, the U.S. Commerce Department predicts a 22% increase in travelers from China in 2010. Through February 2010, 141,071 tourists from China and Hong Kong have visited the U.S., ranking China ninth among arrivals, and an 86% increase over last year. Tourism experts say New York is usually on the agenda for Chinese visitors to the U.S.
Some city hotels have experience in catering to the Chinese. The Mandarin Oriental has long-offered a traditional breakfast of rice congee, soy-poached chicken, steamed pork bun and a boiled egg. But now it is developing Chinese language cards and letters to welcome guests and explain local attractions.
An in-house translator and complimentary tea kettles and tea in-room for Chinese guests is also in the works. The New York Marriott Marquis also serves a traditional Chinese breakfast in its Encore Restaurant and has Mandarin speakers on staff.
At the Waldorf Astoria, Stanley Wong, a Cantonese-speaking senior concierge, says more Chinese tourists will be a boost for retail across the region. His affluent clients like shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and often request a trip to the Woodbury Common outlet in Central Valley, N.Y.
“Sometimes they don’t speak any English but they know Woodbury Common,” he said. (A spokeswoman for the Premium Outlets Division of Simon Property Group said that Woodbury Common is the largest destination for Chinese visitors of its 42 shopping centers in the U.S.). ” New York City is by far the #1 shopping destination in the World for Chinese travelers, before Paris and London”, also declared Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a Shanghai based marketing agency.
On a recent afternoon in Times Square, tourists from China took photos in front of Broadway banners. Yumin He, a 56-year-old teacher from Beijing, made his first trip to the U.S. this month for a wedding. He and his wife traveled across the country with a daughter who lives in San Diego and had been in New York for a week.
“People were really optimistic, the food is good, the environment is great and the air quality is great,” Mr. He said. The family also visited Philadelphia, Boston and Niagara Falls. “We weren’t able to see everything in depth. We just skimmed the surface with sightseeing because everything with the tour group was really rushed,” he said.
Though the majority of travel from China to New York continues to be business-related, the leisure sector is growing, largely because of an agreement signed two years ago that made it possible for groups to travel from China to the U.S. China’s growing middle class also accounts for an increase in leisure travel.
Today’s Chinese tourism market is similar to where the Japanese market was 10 years ago, said Richie Karaburun, president of GTA Americas Inbound, a tour wholesaler based in New York with offices in Shanghai and Beijing. “Within seven to 10 years, if we play our cards right, China will be one of the biggest markets inbound to the U.S.,” he said. The company has seen a triple-digit increase in bookings from China over last year.
Most of the standard tourist attractions in Manhattan are popular with visiting Chinese. But tour operators also say one lesser-known site very important to Chinese visitors is the “Charging Bull” sculpture in Bowling Green Park. Says Mr. Karaburun: “Many Chinese think if they touch the bull, they will have good luck on the stock market.”