U.S. destinations know Brazilian and Chinese tourists can be big spenders when they venture beyond their borders and to attract them some American cities are focusing their marketing efforts as heavily on travel agents and other travel providers as they do on the tourists themselves.
These two countries are some of the fastest-growing visitor markets for many U.S. and global cities as Brazilian tourists eye luxury products that are more affordable in the U.S. than back home and the expansion of the Chinese middle class looking to see the world has Chinese outbound tourists projected to spend $264 billion a year by 2019.
We spoke to six U.S. destinations to find out what some of their successes and challenges have been with these two markets and to hear what they may have in the works to continue growing the market shares of these countries’ visitor arrivals in their respective destinations. Their responses follow:
San Francisco Travel: Laurie Armstrong, director of media relations
A delegation of San Francisco Travel staff and partners are actually in the middle of our sales mission trip to Brazil. Among the news they are spreading is that we will soon be launching a San Francisco Travel website in Portuguese.
In China there will also be two San Francisco Travel websites in traditional and simplified Chinese and China became San Francisco’s top international market last year.
San Francisco Travel and San Francisco International Airport have been marketing as a team in China since 1999 when we opened an office in Shanghai. San Francisco was the first U.S. city to have representation services in mainland China. In 2008, we opened our second representation office in China, this one in Beijing.
Our challenges with Brazil are a lack of non-stop air service, distance to San Francisco versus East Coast U.S. cities, exchange rate fluctuation with the Brazilian currency and stiff competition from European destinations. Based on the first day’s sales calls from our team in Brazil, people are very receptive but need a lot more information about the attractions San Francisco has to offer. The travel trade in market requires a lot of in-depth destination training. They are very familiar with New York and Florida but California is still relatively unknown.
For 2013, we saw a 35% increase year-over-year for Brazilian arrivals (5% market share) and a 55% increase year-over-year for Chinese arrivals (21% market share) and we’re waiting on our 2014 numbers to be finalized.
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism: Betsy Wall, executive director
Both of those markets offer more opportunities than challenges for us. Right now we have no direct flights to Brazil but it’s certainly a market of interest. We do have direct service from Beijing and Shanghai and there are more than 15,000 Chinese students in Massachusetts right now. We have those students and the challenge is to introduce those students to leisure travel and help them learn about opportunities to travel throughout the state.
These markets have a higher than U.S. average of using smartphones for consuming content and we keep that in mind with marketing. Luxury shopping is big but so is discounted shopping at places like Marshalls. Stores in Boston are now hiring concierge individuals to pay attention to high net worth individuals who are shopping in their stores and you cannot believe how many languages you will hear spoken in these stores.
Travel Michigan: Dave Lorenz, industry relations and international marketing manager
Brazil is not a target market for us at this time but we just started to market to China in October 2014. Our biggest challenge is that this market has very little awareness of Michigan. The other challenge we have is back at home where we need to roll out a “China-Ready” plan so that our industry can be prepared to provide the type of experience we expect them to offer our visitors. We are considering options for a plan now.
Destination DC: Kate Gibbs, media relations manager
Our understanding is that word of mouth is still the strongest for marketing D.C. in China. For the last 18 months we’ve have a full-time person on staff who speaks Chinese and works exclusively with Chinese operators, using social sites like Weibo.
In Brazil, it’s the airlines’ promoting D.C. that helps us a lot and we do several FAM [familiarization] trips with Brazilian airlines, travel agents and people who write for the airline magazines. We know that many Brazilians go to New York, and particularly to Queens to visit relatives. They go to Orlando for the theme parks. We want to position D.C. as a place between Queens and Orlando if they’re considering a trip to both places.
Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau: Jack Ferguson, president and CEO
Generally, Brazilian visitors stay in Florida or New York City when they travel to the U.S. while the Chinese visit multiple cities but are cost conscious. Philadelphia is more affordable than most major cities and is centrally located in the northeast between New York City and Washington, D.C.
On March 1, 2015, the CVB opened a representation office in Beijing in addition to appointing a new senior international tourism sales manager to work closely with the travel trade, media and all partners responsible for bringing in Chinese tourists to the U.S.
We also recently partnered with National Geographic Traveler magazine to produce international visitors guides which are translated into eight languages including Portuguese and Simplified Chinese. The 20-page guides highlight some of the city’s main activities and attractions –tax-free shopping on all clothes and shoes, dining and nightlife and a suggested 48-hour itinerary
and calendar of events. These guides are distributed to key contacts in the travel industry as well as media in major cities and some of the information from these guides are also featured in the National Geographic Traveler magazine in China.
Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau: William Pate, president and CEO
As part of our marketing strategy for Brazil, we’ve previously partnered with Delta Air Lines to create a stop-over program which incentivizes travelers to spend a few days in Atlanta by providing them with free access to public transportation and discounts on attractions, dining, nightlife, theater, shopping and tours.
In China, we work to capitalize on the global brands people will recognize that are headquartered here in Atlanta like Coca Cola, CNN, Delta Air Lines and UPS, among others. Chinese tourists who are visiting the U.S. for the second or third time often consider Atlanta as a destination because they want to see different parts of the country.