Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to big bucks.
Like a special food item on the breakfast menu. Or a pair of slippers in a hotel guest room.
The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board is set to roll out a multi-pronged marketing strategy on Wednesday called “NiHao China” that includes those specialities and is designed to maximize visits by Chinese tourists to the area. The agency has also set up a mirror program in China called Hello L.A., which includes a Los Angeles tourism website in Chinese and brochures written in Chinese. NiHao is a Mandarin word that means hello.
About 75 industry executives representing hotels, shopping centers, travel agencies, restaurants and other businesses are slated to attend Wednesday’s session at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel to get a primer on Chinese culture. The efforts will help members of the local tourism industry be prepared for an influx of visitors from China as Los Angeles is a huge market for them and it is only going to get bigger, said Ernest Wooden Jr., president and chief executive of the Los Angeles convention board.
“The No. 1 overseas market in Los Angeles is China,” Wooden said. “We had 577,000 plus Chinese visitors spending close to a half-billion dollars (in 2012) in our hotels, restaurants and on shipping here in Los Angeles.”
The number of visitors from China coming to Los Angeles in 2013 increased 21 percent from 2012 and double-digit percentage gains are expected for the next several years, according to the convention board. The 2012 spending level will likely increase when a final number is determined.
The marketing effort will include a training program for guides who work for Chinese tourism companies based in the Los Angeles area as well as special promotions at shopping destinations such as Westfield shopping properties, Los Angeles International Airport and The Grove. Industry members who participate in the program will receive a certificate that allows their marketing materials be distributed in China.
“Chinese visitors love to shop, and it’s largely because luxury goods in the U.S. are about half of what they are in Shanghai and Beijing,” Wooden said.
The convention board is working on the program with Xinjun Wang, chief executive officer of Ivy Alliance Tourism Consulting, which is contracted by the China National Tourism Administration to implement the certification of the country’s outbound tourism operators.
Wooden was part of a trade mission to China during the administration of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss tourism between the two countries.
“We had almost an hour-long chat about the growth of outbound Chinese tourism,” Wooden said. “He believes tourist coming out of China to travel the world would reach 200 million by 2020.”
Last year, there were 99 million globe-trotting Chinese.
Sheraton Gateway in Los Angeles is already tapping into the market as special Chinese food items and slippers are part of a package available to guests from China, said Michael Washington, general manager of the hotel.
“One of the key things about your guests is you want to make them feel at home and embrace the place,” Washington said. “We created a Chinese package for anyone who is interested the Chinese culture. We expanded our breakfast menu to include steamed rice and congee and tea and soy milk.”
Chinese guests also have a tea pot left in their rooms and hotel staffers receive a primer on the Chinese culture.
In December, the Sheraton Gateway property on West Century Boulevard was purchased by China-based Hazens Investments LLC. The hotel has also hired a front desk manager who speaks Mandarin and partners with a company that will arrange tours around Los Angeles for Chinese guests.
Washington said that it is not too soon to be prepared for the marketing efforts in anticipation of increasing numbers of Chinese coming to Los Angeles.
“We’ve really embraced it,” he said of the marketing effort.
Travelers heading from China to Los Angeles are coming for a combination of business and pleasure, said Jesse Yang, a general manager of Alhambra-based Grand Destinations, which arranges trips to the U.S. for Chinese business people and professionals.
Los Angeles also has a big leg up on the competition for tourists dollars.
“The main attraction for L.A. is the weather. Year around, it’s good. In China, it is winter, and here, it is like summer. And the culture here is amazing,” Yang said.
Education plays a role, too. Chinese students learn all about America in grade school and high school and there is a desire to see what they have been reading about.
And there is a lot to explore here.
“There is a saying in China. Drive 1,000 kilometers is like reading 10,000 books,” Yang said.
(c)2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles). Distributed by MCT Information Services.