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New York welcomes a more spontaneous Chinese tourist

By Hong Xiao in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-12-20 11:55

The emerging Chinese tourist to New York City is younger, more affluent and independent with a taste for adventure in The City That Never Sleeps.

NYC & Company, the city's tourism marketing agency, saidthe Chinese market is transitioning from business and group tours to fully independent travelers, with a younger and more affluent generation traveling to the US.

"We prefer not to travel in groups, which could just give us a hurried and cursory glance at the city on chartered buses," said Yang Fang from Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, who recently finished her master's degree at a college in Kentucky. She was visiting New York with her parents on Monday.

"Chinese outbound independent tourism has had an explosive development in recent years. Also, Chinese tourists traveling in groups overseas has had a steady growth," said Jason Song, director of the Product Planning & Promotion Division of L&L Travel Inc, the largest Chinese local travel agency in the US, headquartered in Manhattan.

Song said one of the reasons that more tourists choose to travel independently is that they are getting younger.

"This generation of Chinese all know English pretty well; there are no barriers for them to travel in an English-speaking country like the US by themselves," Song said.

He said New York City is the prime choice in the US for Chinese independent travelers because of the large number of popular attractions and the 24-hour subway system.

"And travel-strategy websites like Trip Advisor and hotels.com are well developed; they all established Chinese version websites because of the growing number of Chinese users. Tourists can have abundant information for preparation," Song added.

According to NYC & Company's visitor market profile from October, visitation from Chinese mainland to New York has been growing rapidly over the past decade.

"NYC is China-ready, with attractions, cultural organizations, hotels and more catering specifically to Chinese travelers with amenities and language offerings," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, the city's tourism marketer.

The most popular and the biggest tourism destination in the US with foreign tourists, New York welcomed more than 950,000 visitors from China this year, a sevenfold increase since 2007.

Back then, more than 15 countries, including Switzerland and Israel, sent more tourists to New York than China did, according to NYC & Company statistics. But this year, only visitors from the UK outnumbered the Chinese — and the British total of about 1.2 million has not grown since 2007, according to The New York Times.

Chinese surpassed Brazilians and Canadians as tourists to New York this year and will overtake the British by 2022, Dixon told the Times.

During President Xi Jinping's State visit to the US in September 2015, he and US President Barack Obama jointly announced 2016 to be the China-US Tourism Year.

"It provides great opportunities and platforms for both sides to promote tourism;I'm sure the promoting events organized by both sides made a great contribution to the increasing number of tourists traveling to each other's country," said Wang Yanjie, director of the China National Tourist Office in New York.

"NYC & Company recognizes the importance of this crucial market and continues to educate iconic tourist institutions and lesser-known gems in welcoming Chinese visitors, time and time again," Dixon told China Daily.

Dixon said that New York City continues to evolve, with new hotels and attractions in all five boroughs.

By year's end, the city will be home to 113,000 hotel rooms and 135,000 rooms by the end of 2019, meaning more accommodation options than ever for visitors from all over the world.

Yang, the student from Kentucky, put a lot of effort into her trip.

"I began to prepare very early, about half a year before, to book tickets and hotels," said Yang. "But it's worth it, my mom likes the street view of New York very much, so we can wander along the streets here as long as we like," said Yang, watching a street performance with her parents on Times Square.

To meet increasing demand from Chinese tourists, travel companies like L&L are expanding their tourism products to include smallergroup interests.

"For example, usually tourism groups would spend only one day to visit New York City, but now we are expanding some of the tours to two days; tourists could spend half a day at the World Trade Center site, the 911 Museum, to have a deeper experience of that unforgettable terrorist attack, " Song said.

Still, there are many Chinese tourists who prefer some of the more traditional activities, such as taking a sightseeing cruise to the Statue of Liberty or posing for a group photo with the Charging Bull near Wall Street.

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