China Ready, Tourism, Destination Marketing, Uncategorized

More Chinese tourists to visit US in 2016, says travel agency

Story source – GBTIMES BEIJING & US Travel Association- 2015/12/28
Chinese travel

Figures from the US Travel Association show that around 3 million tourists from the Chinese mainland visited the U.S. in 2015, up 16% from last year. (photo courtesy of China News Service)

Insiders are predicting an increasing in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the United States next year, partly due to the easing of restrictions on Chinese citizens acquiring tourist visas.

2016 is also the China-US tourism year, as proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barak Obama.

Sun Geng, Chief Operating Officer of L&L Travel Enterprise, the biggest travel agency for Chinese tourists travelling to the States, has predicted that the 2016 Spring Festival period will be their busiest time, with more than 5,000 Chinese travellers having already applied for tours in that period.

Sun said that in the future, they plan to develop more travel destinations to remoter parts of the US and not stay just confined to those containing first-class landmarks.

“In the next step, we will develop more tourist destinations in the second-tier or third-tier US regions, including the Midwest, which showcases the original US culture. We hope our tours will not only let Chinese tourists see the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Universal Studios in Los Angeles and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We will offer more tours and let young and old Chinese people experience true U.S. culture and spirit.”

The travel agency welcomed 260 thousand Chinese tourists this year, the highest number among all its competitors.

Meanwhile, figures from the U.S. Travel Association show that around 3 million tourists from the Chinese mainland visited the US in 2015, up by 16 percent from last year.

China is behind Mexico, Canada, the European Union, and Japan in terms of the numbers of tourists visiting the US But, by 2020 China could become the third biggest source of visitors.

This growth has been facilitated partially by the new visa arrangement announced at the APEC Summit in November 2014.

B-category non-immigrant visas were extended to 10 years for Chinese business travelers and tourists going to the US.

Many Chinese tourists have welcomed the extension.

“The travel visa was extended to ten years last year, which made everything easier. And so we applied for 10-year visas, with a plan of coming here for the New Year.”

The amount of money Chinese tourists spend during their trips in the US is also increasing significantly, which has proved to be good news for the US economy.

“The two of us have spent four to five thousand already on hotel stay. We are staying for two weeks here, so probably we will spend another $2,000 to $3,000. We were also asked to do some shopping for friends and family as New York is a great place to buy luxury items. In total we plan to spend around $20,000 to $30,000.”

By 2021, Chinese tourists are expected to spend a staggering $80bn annually in the US according to the US Department of Commerce.

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Tourism, Destination Marketing, Uncategorized

Chinese Airlines Force US Carriers to Lower Fares

 

As more Chinese airlines win new routes to North America, it spells good news for destinations. With increased competition, US carriers have to lower fares to remain competitive. Similar to Americans, who prefer to fly on a US carrier for many reasons, Chinese travelers like the familiarity of Chinese carriers. This interesting article written by Harvard Zhang appeared in Medill Reports Chicago.

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When Yan Wang flew with United Airlines from Shanghai to Chicago at the end of November, she found the flight attendants’ Mandarin very awkward. She also realized her “Chinglish” didn’t help the communication.

“I speak some English, but I found it hard sometimes to talk with their crew members,” said Wang, a 40-year-old Chinese doctor who was shopping at the Magnificent Mile after attending an academic seminar in Chicago. “I would rather fly with carriers of my own country if I had the choice.”

Responding to a perceived opportunity, China Eastern Airlines Corp., headquartered in Shanghai, will become the first Chinese carrier to initiate daily flights between Shanghai and Chicago starting March 18 of next year, expecting to bring more Chinese visitors to the Windy City and boost tourism revenues.

The Chinese state-owned company will compete with Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., parent company of United Airlines, and Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines Group Inc., parent company of American Airlines, whose commercial aircrafts are flying the same route.
China Eastern revised its Shanghai-Chicago flight frequency to daily from three flights per week initially announced last month, aviation watchdog site Airlineroute.net reported last week. The non-stop flight on the Boeing 777-300ER will be China Eastern’s fifth gateway to the U.S. after Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Honolulu.

“China Eastern’s launching of Shanghai-Chicago route comes at the right time as China and the U.S. will initiate 2016 China-U.S. Tourism Year,” said Wendi Chen, spokesman for the Consulate General of China in Chicago, in an e-mail. “This will definitely facilitate cooperation in various fields and personnel exchanges between China and Chicago.”

Last year, the number of Chinese tourists to Chicago was estimated by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office at 133,000, up 4 percent from 2013. The number of Chinese travelers to the U.S. has had double-digit growth annually since 2010, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce. A total of 2.2 million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. in 2014.

A growing middle class in China contributes to more Chinese businessmen and businesswomen, tourists and students coming to the U.S. The Chinese middle class — 109 million adults in total — outnumbered their 92 million American counterparts, and became the world’s largest in 2015 for the first time, according to an October global wealth report by Zurich, Switzerland-based financial services company Credit Suisse.

The U.S. and China also started offering each other’s citizens multiple-entry visas for up to 10 years in November 2014, making it easier for Chinese and U.S. travelers previously restricted to one-year visas.

Chinese visitors contributed a record-setting $24 billion to the U.S. in 2014 — about $66 million every day. Every Chinese traveler contributed $11,000 on average to the U.S. economy last year, thrusting China into second place in total visitor spending in 2014 behind only Canada.

To be sure, a stronger U.S. dollar and a weaker yuan seem to work against the booming tourism market. The Chinese currency stood at a four-year low of 6.43 against the U.S. dollar on Dec. 9 after China’s central bank allowed its currency to depreciate by nearly 2 percent against the U.S. dollar on August 11. This means Chinese tourists will face higher costs for their American experience.

But the U.S. still expects China to send 2.56 million visitors to the U.S. this year, 17 percent more than the 2.2 million in 2014, according to an October forecast by the National Travel and Tourism Office of the Department of Commerce. China is expected to see double-digit growth rates in the total number of travelers to the U.S. annually through 2020, beating all other countries.

Growth chart

China is expected to have double-digit growth rates in total number of travellers to the U.S. annually through 2020, beating all other countries. (Harvard Zhang/Medill)

Before leaving for China to attend a trade conference last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel estimated that the new Shanghai-Chicago service would result in about $150 million-plus in economic benefit to the city.

At the same time, aviation experts predict China Eastern’s new operation likely will take away big corporate clients from United and American Airlines.

“China Eastern has a domestic network with flights to secondary cities in China like Wuhan and Dalian, which is attractive to U.S. corporations of all industries with businesses in inner China,” said Rohan Anand, who writes analysis for the frequent flyer travel blog site Upgrd.com. “China Eastern also has lower prices than United and American, a very important feature for many Chinese customers that are price sensitive.”

A round trip with China Eastern departing from Shanghai on March 18, 2016, to Chicago and returning three days later costs $710 for the lowest-price ticket including taxes, according to the airline’s booking website Wednesday. Passengers will have to pay $910 with United or $1,500 with American Airlines for the cheapest flights with almost the same itinerary.

“We vigorously compete on domestic and international routes with carriers across the globe,” American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said in an e-mail. “China is an extremely important part of our international network and is crucial for our future growth.”

United Airlines didn’t respond immediately to requests for comments.

For Hancong Gao, a 23-year-old Chinese graduate student in public policy at the University of Chicago, China Eastern’s new route gives her another option to travel back to her hometown Hangzhou, one hour from Shanghai on a high-speed train.

“I have very good impression of China Eastern because of good ticket price and quality services,” Gao said. “I’m so happy China Eastern launched this route. I’ll definitely consider it next time I go back home.”

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Uncategorized

Are You WeChat Pay Ready?

You may be China Ready but are you WeChat Pay ready? Personally, being “China Ready” is more more about understanding the systems and processes that Chinese visitors use, than knowing how to speak a few words in Chinese and displaying a UnionPay sticker, which is really common courtesy to any international visitor.

WeChat, China’s global messaging app, with an active profile of 650 million users monthly, is taking its cashless in-store payments global. To put that in to perspective, this is about the same number of active monthly users of Instagram and Twitter combined.

The aim is for Chinese tourists heading overseas to be able to use WeChat Pay, the app’s built-in payments system (which is similar to Apple Pay and Android Pay) at participating stores around the world. Those of use who subscribe to WeChat saw WeChat’s parent company Tencent announcement last month on the WeChat app.

Today, WeChat Pay can be used in major chain stores and thousands of locations throughout China. Tencent is clearly targeting Alibaba and its mobile wallet app Alipay, which is also supported by many restaurants and retailers across China. In both Alipay and WeChat, in-store payments are processed when the cashier scans a QR code that either Alipay or WeChat Pay generates on the user’s phone.

WeChat pay.jpg

WeChat will initially support payment in nine currencies – the US dollar, British pound, Hong Kong dollar, Japanese yen, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, Euro, New Zealand dollar, and Korean won – but it still only works with China-issued bank and credit cards, so any overseas spending is ultimately converted and paid for in renminbi.

The bottom line is that whoever comes out on top of this payment battle could very well set up a “winner takes all” scenario between Alibaba and Tencent. The stakes are indeed high.

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