California dreaming becomes reality for 7,000 Chinese tourists

During their visit, the group took 86 flights and stayed in 26 hotels

Chinese tourists are sought-after clients,  with their impressive spending power. Photograph: Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Chinese tourists are sought-after clients, with their impressive spending power. Photograph: Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:00

A 7,000-strong Chinese tour group stopped off at venues in southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, before ending their visit with a celebration at Anaheim Convention Center, where they raised the red flag and sang the Chinese national anthem.

During their visit, the biggest Chinese tour group to ever visit the US took 86 flights, stayed in 26 hotels and, according to Union Pay, spent €7,350 each during the visit.

“We are making history. It is a California dream come true,” said Xu Guowei, vice-chairman of Perfect China, the direct-marketing company that organised the tour as a reward for its employees.

Chinese tourists, increasingly common visitors to destination cities around the world, are sought-after clients after years of economic growth have spawned a middle class with impressive spending power.

“China’s tourist group is considered to have the biggest buying power among all international visitors,” Caroline Beteta, chief executive of Visit California, told China Daily newspaper. “We are making sure this exceptionally important group of guests has their best experience ever in their stay here in California.”

The eight-day trip is estimated to have generated €62 million for the region, and the group came from Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Hong Kong on more than 70 flights.

The number of Chinese tourists travelling overseas reached nearly 100 million in 2013. In 2012, Chinese overseas tourists spent nearly €75 billion, overtaking Germans as the biggest spenders.

Number one

Tourists from China are number one among all international visitors every year to California, and California is number one on the list of US destinations for Chinese visitors.

An estimated 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the US in 2013, and that number is expected to grow by 21 per cent to 2.1 million this year.

Li Haidong, a US studies researcher at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told China Daily that the country’s interest in the US defied the tensions between the world’s two largest economies on bilateral and global issues.

“In a sense, it shows that bilateral relations are maturing under the backdrop of market-driven globalisation,” said Li.

To put the size of this tour group in context, about 18,000 visitors from China come to Ireland every year, and Tourism Ireland is targeting an increase to 50,000 in the next couple of years.