Welcome to 2016, the U.S-China Tourism Year, a joint effort led by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the China National Tourism Administration.  The initiative to encourage travel between the United States and China was announced last fall by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping. In addition to programs for cooperation and cultural exchange between the countries, tourist and business visas have been extended to ten years, and student visas to five. A rapidly growing Chinese middle class with more disposable income is expected to take advantage of the loosened travel restrictions. China is the sixth-largest source market for tourism to the United States, and may soon become the largest.  In 2015, 2,670,000 Chinese travelers visited the US, a significant increase from only 400,000 in 2007.

Because luxury goods are subject to high tariffs in China, shopping is one of the most popular pastimes for Chinese tourists. That is why, for example, MTM LinguaSoft has been busy translating ads, web pages and informational brochures into Chinese for major retailer Bloomingdale’s. Visits to landmarks and points of cultural interest are popular, and Chinese tourists have a particular interest in outdoor activities such as golfing and visiting national parks. Certain foods, such as red meat, are far less expensive in the United States, so restaurant dining is a draw as well.

In Philadelphia, the PHLCVB (Philadelphia Convention and Visitors’ Bureau) is working to attract more visitors from China in the next few years. China is already ranked as the second international market for Philadelphia, with 61,000 overnight visitors in 2014. This figure is expected to double over the next two years. More Chinese tourists are traveling independently instead of sticking with group tours. This means that hotels, attractions, and venues looking to attract Chinese visitors are already starting to provide specially tailored amenities. Establishing a web presence in Chinese languages allows tourists to do research before leaving home. Translating key information at a tourist attraction, whether in print or digitally as a mobile app, increases the likelihood that Chinese visitors will talk favorably about their experiences on social media, which is an important source of tourism information for Chinese travelers. Cross-cultural training for travel industry employees can also make a positive difference in making tourists feel comfortable and welcome.

For information and free resources for making the most of 2016 U.S-China Tourism Year, visit the Brand USA website.

Photo Credit: Panegyrics of Granovetter via Compfight cc .

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