Southern California has seen big benefits from the increase in Chinese tourism over the past decade.
In 2016, 1.3 million visitors came to California from China, representing the largest overseas tourism group in the state. This year, the Los Angeles area is projected to see about 1.1 million visitors, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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“What we’re trying to do is educate ourselves on how to communicate effectively,” Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau, said during the “Global Ready China” seminar Wednesday at the Ontario Convention Center.
Visit California, which markets the state to tourists abroad, and the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted the gathering as part of efforts to help prepare local businesses for the growing market. Participants in Wednesday’s seminar, many from the region’s hotel and retail industry, learned about Chinese travel trends, travelers’ expectations and how to meet them, and best practices for serving Chinese visitors.
Because of the many dialects and cultural hierarchies in China, Krouse said, “There’s a very different way of communicating, there’s a lot of variety that has to happen to understand how to work with them.”
There are many cultural differences, and because they are so “distinctive,” according to Walt Wang, China marketing manager for Visit California, it’s important that “all businesses in California are aware of that.” He also said it’s important to understand what is really meant during communication.
The key activity of Chinese tourists in Southern California, according to experts, is shopping. Popular spots in Los Angeles are The Grove, the Beverly Center, and Citadel Outlets, according to Shant Apelian, spokesman for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
Shopping activity was reported by 89 percent of all China visitors to the Los Angeles region, Apelian said.
“Our luxury goods are far less expensive here than in China, so (shopping) is by far, the number one activity,” he said.
Chinese tourists spent 1.3 billion in the Los Angeles area in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s more than any other overseas tourism market. According to the Department of Commerce, the average Chinese tourist will spend about a week here in the area, and will spend an average of $212 per day. Tourists from other overseas markets, including South Korea, England, Germany and France, spend an average of $178 a day.
Representatives from Ontario Mills, another major destination in Southern California for Chinese tourists, attended the event to gain insight on how to better serve the market.
Carmen Williams, general manager at the Coach store at Ontario Mills, was aware that associates should use both hands when exchanging currency with Chinese tourists, but the seminar experts advised they should do that with business cards and other documents as well.
“I knew quite a bit,” Williams said. “Our own corporate office does a bit of research and shares that with us. However, coming (to this event) is a little more specific. … I think this puts the information out there as far as understanding more about the culture and how to make those travel experiences great.”
A majority of first-time Chinese tourists will be part of group tours, like those that regularly arrive by bus to Ontario Mills, according to Lorraine Chapman, director of strategic alliances for the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau. But experts see Chinese tourists increasingly making the trip independently, renting cars, and using smartphone apps to translate menus.