California’s Golden Opportunity with Chinese Tourists

March 9, 2015/0/0
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Since the US announced plans to extend the length of Chinese tourist, student, and business visas last November, leading American travel destinations have kept a close eye on Chinese tourist arrivals to evaluate the near- and long-term impact of this historic move.

As it turns out, they didn’t need to wait long: in the past four months, applications for new US visas have jumped a jaw-dropping 68 percent. Los Angeles destinations frequented by Chinese tourists recorded strong sales growth throughout December and January (and well into February), with two extremely strong weeks around the Chinese New Year holiday.

VisitCalifornia, the state tourism board, is keenly aware of the China opportunity, and announced that it will double its marketing budget to $100 million this year, following the passing of the Dream Big Dividend in 2014.

VisitCalifornia outlined its plans for the future at the recent Outlook Forum, at which China played a starring role, with VisitCalifornia identifying it as one of its top three priority markets going forward. Other markets deemed “Top-Tier” for California are Mexico, Brazil, the UK, and Australia.

But it is China that is seen as having central importance to California tourism growth in 2015. According to Brand USA, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the US will more than double in the next five years, surpassing 4 million visits. Recent research by VisitCalifornia and PhocusWright found that 60 percent of Chinese respondents listed the United States on their destination wish list – more than any other country.

As VisitCalifornia looks for new ways to boost international marketing efforts, the organization is adapting five key trends — culinaryfamilyoutdoorluxury, and entertainment — to each of its key markets this year.

In addition to boosting advertising and media efforts, VisitCalifornia is taking the innovative approach of creating compelling video content that communicates key messages about California, driving home the idea of the state as an aspirational destination.

There are signs that recent efforts are working. VisitCalifornia’s Dream365 YouTube project, highlighting 22,270 hours of content engagement, resulted in 821 million impressions and 10 million video views. As part of this project, VisitCalifornia is creating custom television shows and purchasing relevant clips from content creators. Going forward, look for VisitCalifornia to expand this project to China and partner with Chinese video companies.

Although many — if not most — global tourism boards are courting the growing number of Chinese international travelers, VisitCalifornia stands out by its creativity and forward-thinking nature, constantly finding fresh ways to stand out in a noisy market and engage a dynamic, fast-growing consumer demographic.