Chinese tour group

Tapping Into The Chinese Market

Oregon’s Tourism Industry Primed For An Influx Of Chinese Travelers


The composition of international travelers to the United States is changing at an accelerating rate. According to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, the number of overseas travelers from countries whose nationals require U.S. visas increased 34 percent from 2006 to 2011 and is forecasted to increase by 53 percent from 2011 to 2016. By comparison over the same time periods, the number of overseas travelers from countries whose nationals do not require visas increased only 26 percent and is forecasted to increase by 17 percent. In the next five years the Chinese market is expected to have the highest growth rate in travel to the United States, with an estimated 198 percent increase.

The current wave of Chinese visitors to Oregon is a key indicator that this nationwide trend is true-to-form here, as well. As of the third quarter in 2012, Chinese visitation to Oregon increased around 40 percent over the same time in 2011, and is continuing on this path of growth*.

In Oregon, the surge of Chinese visitors is being met with welcome smiles and receptive, open minds as travel professionals explore market trends and the best ways to accommodate the needs of a rapidly changing travel demographic.

The Chinese travel industry is swiftly evolving. It’s easy to forget that within our own lifetimes, the number of Chinese leisure travelers – even within their own country – was very small. While encouraging its citizens to travel for leisure, the Chinese government is also trying to educate the traveling public to conform to widely accepted norms many international travelers are already accustomed to. That is to say they are actively promoting exploration of the globe (and, of course, China) while encouraging travelers to leave behind some of the comforts of home.

A first generation of visitors, which includes large groups of couples in their 40s to 50s, are accustomed to certain familiarities and niceties of home, many of which are amenities they are not inclined to live without.

Moving away from the group travel experience, a second generation of younger travelers with proficient English skills, disposable income and a proclivity for unique experiences are making their own travel arrangements through online travel agencies (OTA’s) like C-Trip, eLong and Mangocity. This group is also less idiosyncratic in their need for specific niceties tailored to the familiar and more interested in “going native” so they more completely understand the genuine American experience.

So, what can we do in Oregon to tap into the vast potential of this expanding travel set? Our innate advantage as Oregonians working in the tourism and hospitality industry is the simple fact that we love to share this place with visitors from all over the world, and it shows in the quality of visitor experiences offered throughout the state.

Many of Travel Oregon’s tourism partners are already engaged with Chinese tour operators bringing large groups of Chinese-Canadian citizens, thanks to our close proximity to Vancouver/Richmond, British Columbia, which hosts one of the largest Chinese populations in North America. As a result of this experience, our level of preparedness is quite high.

Several lodging partners are already actively working with international tour operators based in China, and receptive tour operators based in the U.S. They are familiar with the nuances of negotiating with these tour operators to reach an agreement on price and appealing to most of the needs of Chinese visitors. In some cases, the simple act of placing slippers and hot water pots in rooms and providing signage in Chinese and/or Chinese language websites can make all the difference in attracting and satisfying the first-generation visitor.

We have an excellent opportunity to position Oregon as the place to experience a unique destination with incredible food and unrivaled outdoor recreation. Rather than only honing in on one segment, we can appeal to a broad cross section of visitor that includes first-generation group travelers and second-generation independent travelers interested in the intensely local aspects of Oregon’s culture. Whether it’s ensuring they have the comforts of home, or sharing a favorite place to sample Oregon Pinot Noir and a round of top-notch golf, our tourism professionals are among the best hosts in the world, and can make anyone feel at home, even when they are thousands of miles away. | GREG ECKHART, MANAGER - GLOBAL SALES, TRAVEL OREGON

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GREG ECKHART • Greg@TravelOregon.com

*Travel Oregon estimates are based on and extrapolated from aggregate card usage data provided by VisaVue® Travel.  They incorporate data from other independent research sources.