It’s a common sight for Susan Vance, marketing and sponsorship director for the L.A. mall, and getting much more so. Last year, about 300 buses stopped there. They are already approaching half that so far this year, the result of a boom in Chinese tourism and of a concerted effort by the Beverly Center to cash in on that growth.
This program has been so beneficial,” Vance said. “If we missed (this trend), we would have done a disservice to our stores.
Last year, 686,000 Chinese visitors came to Los Angeles, up more than five- fold from 2013, when L.A. saw 116,000, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
Vance said the Beverly Center anticipated that surge and started planning in 2013. “We saw it coming, and it was either you get on board now or you’re not going to be China ready,” she said. At the time, tourists from Australia were the mall’s No. 1 visitor. Now, tourists from China rank first by a wide margin, Vance said.
The Beverly Center’s program has several components. During busy shopping periods, such as the recent lunar new year season, the mall has as many as four in-house consultants – called China Luxury Advisors – who handle everything from translating written materials such as mall directories to managing the Beverly Center’s account on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. They also communicate with tour operators – often through Chinese messaging service WeChat – to find out when a busload of tourists will arrive. (Operators often give little notice.)
The mall also hired several Mandarin-speaking guest services agents, who often serve as the first point of contact for Chinese tourists coming off a tour bus.
Mall retailers also have made efforts to be prepared for Chinese visitors. Courtney Saavedra, director of marketing and public relations for retailer Kitson, said it hired a Mandarin-speaking sales associate at its Beverly Center boutique several months ago to meet the demand. The Beverly Center also takes things a step further with an exclusive partnership with USC and UCLA to target Chinese students. The mall offers free shuttle services for back-to-school shopping events and, more recently, partnered with Pasadena’s East West Bank to host a job-readiness and networking event at the mall.