Tag Archives: NYC & Company

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.

Gervois magazine - The new travel magazine for millennials travelers in the United States“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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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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