In Part I, we offered some details regarding the Chicago tourist spots enjoyed by Chinese Tourism officials while they stayed in Chicago during the middle of October for the 7th Annual China-US Tourism Leadership Summit. In this article, we’ll review the “whys” behind the extraordinary significance of this chance for Chicago to showcase itself to China!
As with so many economic measures these days, China is one of the world’s most promising and fastest growing market of potential tourists. Due to its continuously expanding economy and a steady expansion within the middle class, more and more Chinese are able to travel abroad. Last year alone, 1.5 million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2012 – a whopping 35% jump from 2011. Looking forward, expectations are that China will send as many as 100 million business and tourist travelers overseas each year by 2015 – which will be up from 83 million in 2012.
As you can see, as many Chinese visitors as the U.S. sees now, the U.S. currently captures only a relative fraction of that annual total. The Chinese have tended to favor destinations in Southeast Asia and Europe. In addition, the Chinese who visit the U.S. have tended to target the East Coast, the West Coast, or Las Vegas. The magnitude of those trends can be starkly seen in a comparison of the numbers for total Chicago visitors during 2012 (a record high 46.4 million) versus the number of those visitors from China (only 111,000!).
To you and I, who recognize the many natural, cultural, and architectural treasures of Chicago, these statistics could be puzzling. That challenge was highlighted at several points during the Summit. The Chinese visitors recognized and appreciated the scenic beauty of the Lake Michigan vista, the rich, architecture, the outstanding food, and the museums. To that point, Shao Qiwei (chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, a cabinet-level post) observed: “Chicago needs to demonstrate its uniqueness to the Chinese!”
One piece of good news is that Chinese news sources rarely report on Chicago news. Therefore, the Chinese do not read about concerns regarding Chicago crime or guns. One delegate said: “We’re just aware of major events, like the government shutdown.”
Some other positives that were highlighted by the Chinese delegates included:
1) The Hancock Observatory and the Art Institute both made audio tour content available in Mandarin, a point much applauded by the Chinese, who suggested that other Chicago institutions need to do the same.
a. It is worth noting that the Art Institute promotes itself on Weibo, a Chinese Social Media site (create by Sina).
2) Pritzer Pavilion and Millennium Park made a big impression on Daz Biz (president of the China Tourism Academy). He was struck by the widespread freedom that people have make use of the space: “They explained that people can sit on the grass, without a fee, and enjoy the music and picnic.”
3) Several of the Chinese emphasized the advantages for Chicago to play up the Chicago Bulls!
a. Despite the long time absence of Michael Jordan, the Bulls remain extremely popular!
In Part III, we’ll highlight for you fascinating data that illustrates one very obvious (and compelling) reason why Chicago leaders have been feting Chinese tourism official with particular fervor. (Hint: it has nothing to do with the fact that China has the world’s largest population! It does have something to do with impressively rising economic wellbeing throughout the country, but only suggests part of the story. So be sure to keep your eyes on the lookout for Part III.)