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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

State China Tourism Office is Welcomed by Local Leaders

Even before China lifted its ban on group leisure travel to America last year, California cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco had their eyes on the Chinese tourism market. Both cities have set up offices in the populous country in hopes of increasing their amount of Chinese visitors. Now the State of California,reeling from a severe budget crunch,is getting in on the action. On Jan. 7, the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) announced that it is opening an office in China as well. “International tourism is a bright spot in the California economy, and Chinese visitors (are) among the top spenders of all of California’s major international markets,” stated CTTC CEO Caroline Beteta when the group announced the opening of its China office. According to the CTTC, 227,000 Chinese tourists visited California in 2007, spending about $327 million. Moreover, the World Tourism Organization anticipates that China will have 100 million outbound travelers by 2015. While these numbers certainly point to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for a distressingly cash-strapped state, is it overkill for the CTTC to open an office in China when multiple California cities already have offices in the country? Susan Wilcox, CTTC’s vice president of communications, doesn’t think so. She believes that the state office will be distinct from the California cities which have already set up shop in China. “Well, this office is focusing on travel trade, wholesale travel to California,” Wilcox said. “Also, it’s really focusing on public communications. There’s not a lot of knowledge in that market about what California has to offer.” What’s more is that the CTTC definitely has the funds to open a new office. A few years back, the state increased the CTTC’s budget from $14 million to $50 million, in part to boost California’s presence on the global tourism scene. The China office is the seventh international tourism office California has opened. Other offices are in the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Germany and Mexico. Opening tourism offices abroad can be particularly profitable for the state considering that visitation to California from international tourists generates $16.7 billion, or 17 percent, of overall tourism expenditure here. “International travelers will help to offset decreased domestic travel revenues,” Wilcox said. “It’s a significant revenue stream for state and local government I think the travel industry is ecstatic that we’re getting in front of the market at a key time when visitation is more feasible for Chinese travelers to make the trip.” LA Inc., which represents the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a case in point. Although the agency opened an office in China almost three years ago, LA Inc.’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Patti MacJennett believes that a California office in China will only serve to spur more interest in Los Angeles. “We are very pleased that California has opened an office because it will compliment L.A.’s marketing office,” MacJennett said. “We were the first tourism office in China (from California) The more marketing dollars and more marketing efforts we can direct towards China, the bigger economic gain for Los Angeles and California as a whole.” One reason that MacJennett believes that Los Angeles stands to gain from the CTTC China office opening is the fact that LAX is the only airport serviced by all three Chinese international airlines. Nearly a third of all Chinese visitors to the U.S. enter the country via LAX. However, while Los Angeles undoubtedly has much to offer tourists, Wilcox believes that California has more to offer than its so-called “gateway” cities. “We have some of the best theme parks in the world, notable national and state parks, great boutiques and bargain shopping,” she said. “There are a lot of activities, historic sites, the beaches, the waterfronts. There can be sight-seeing in both small and large cities.” The City of Santa Clarita, for example, has a population of just under 200,000. Yet, it hosts events such as the Amgen Tour which draw as many as 50,000 spectators from around the globe. It also doesn’t hurt that the city is in the immediate vicinity of world-famous theme park Six Flags Magic Mountain. Jessica Freude, an administrative analyst for Santa Clarita’s Film & Tourism Economic Development department, is hopeful about the possibilities a CTTC office in China will bring. “I think Southern California stands to benefit from that office,” Freude said. “It will only further educate folks about places like Santa Clarita. I think we can only stand to benefit from it.” MacJennett said that LA Inc. has been doing its part to educate tourists about the communities that surround Los Angeles. “One of the objectives all of us have is to help a relatively young market learn how to package and sell our destinations,” she said. “Chinese tour operators are seeking good value and certainly the Valley presents a number of options.”

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