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LA welcomed 1.2m Chinese tourists in 2018

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily USA | Updated: 2019-01-17 23:31

File Photo: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Oct 2017. [Photo/IC]

Despite reports that the US would restrict some visas, the number of Chinese visitors to Los Angeles has escalated, officials said.

Visits by tourists from the Chinese mainland rose 6.9 percent to 1.2 million from 2017 to 2018, making the City of Angels the No. 1 destination in the United States for Chinese travelers, city officials and tourism industry executives announced Wednesday.

Chinese travelers also spent at least $1.2 billion last year in the city, the highest among any international market.

“About 13 years ago, we decided that China was the emerging global market in the world. I am proud to tell you that we were very happy that we made the decision to go to China 13 years ago and open up our first office in Beijing,” said Ernest Wooden Jr, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

The agency now operates three other offices in China, in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Los Angeles is also the only city in the world that has an official license to market directly to the Chinese people, Wooden said.

“We will probably open another office in China; we expect and look forward to a very bright future,” he added.

The city welcomed a record 50 million visitors in 2018, which is 1.5 million higher than 2017’s total. The number also helped surpass a goal the city had set for 2020 two years ahead of schedule, officials said.

Out of the 50 million visitors, an estimated 42. 5 million visitors are domestic and 7.5 million are international.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said tourism supported an average of more than 547,000 jobs for Angelenos in the leisure and hospitality sector and injected $35 billion into the local economy last year.

He called Los Angeles “a city that’s an intersection of ethnicities, of nationalities and cultures”.

The other top international markets for Los Angeles are Mexico, which sent 1.8 million visitors in 2018; Canada, with 780,000 tourists, and the UK, with 382,000 travelers.

But Wooden said China continues to be a major focus of the agency.

The board has launched a “China Ready Program”, which helps local venues understand the cultural differences between Chinese and domestic visitors.

Wooden believes Los Angeles is especially attractive to the Chinese population due to its flourishing technology scene, its concentration of prestigious universities, and Hollywood.

“It’s our role as the head of the tourism department to make all of our partners ready to accept what I think is going to be millions of Chinese visitors,” he said.

The surge of international visitors is a factor in a 3.6 percent increase in international seat capacity at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), authorities said.

According to Sheena Yu, destination sales director of Asia Pacific for Discover Los Angeles, the seat capacity in direct flights between LA and China had increased 20 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Los Angeles also has launched direct flights to second-tier cities such as Xi’an and Shenyang.

The conference finished with a special presentation featuring basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, who appeared in a life-size hologram to the awe of spectators.

“We also work very hard to help Americans realize the beauty of China, and China is very exotic for Americans; they don’t quite realize how exotic it is,” Wooden said.

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