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 Part II, we highlighted some more details regarding the ways Chicago officials treated our Chinese visitors to a “bit of Chicago”, and then presented some of the “whys” behind the extraordinary significance of this chance for Chinese leaders to see and “taste” Chicago. Here in Part III, we will identify why Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his colleagues covet Chinese tourists!
The appeal of China as a strategic economic partner is not a sudden insight for Emanuel and other city leaders. Former mayor, Richard M. Daley, made many visits to China to create and nurture relationships and partnerships. He also made a point of serving as co-chairman of a U.S. advisory panel created by President Obama to encourage more American students to pursue studies in China. To that end, student interns from China were hosted here in Chicago during 2011. One of those interns observed, following a visit to a Chicago City Council meeting: “I’m surprised to see there is no debate in the Council meeting… There is some debate, even confrontation, in the council meetings in Hong Kong, but everything gores peaceful here.” (It is undoubtedly best that our visitors don’t see true “Chicago politics!”)
Mayor Emanuel continues to recognize the importance of China and tourism – spending some one-on-one time with Shao Qiwei during his stay in Chicago.
What are the stakes at hand with regard to Chinese tourists? Besides the benefit of potentially large numbers of Chinese tourists, the tourists who do come tend to be much larger spenders than our “average” tourist. One reason for this is that luxury good taxes on items purchased in China range between 20-70% (depending on product category). Therefore, Chinese tourists especially love the opportunity to buy expensive products.
It is astounding what a relatively more potent economic impact a Chinese tourist can have on a city’s economy! The average Chinese travel party spent $5,886 in Chicago during 2012, while the average domestic tourist party spent “just” $1,418 (data from “Choose Chicago”). That means the average Chinese “unit” spent more than 300% more than the typical domestic tourists!
This does not mean Chicago does not care about our domestic visitors!! However, it does hint at how important it is to encourage the efforts of Emanuel and his tourism staff (with lots of help from hotels, museums, businesses, etc.) to accomplish Emanuel’s goals: 1) move Chicago up into the “top five” of U.S. tourist draws; 2) attract hundreds of thousands of additional Chinese tourists to Chicago!!