Wild, wild West: Chinese tourists taking on US beyond Hollywood

A group of Chinese tourists pose for pictures at the entrance sign of Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Wyoming. Source: B Brown/Shutterstock

THE irrefutable spending power of Chinese tourists is spreading beyond Asia Pacific into the United States in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York.

A recent report from AP via The Cody Enterprise revealed more Chinese are also traveling into the Wild West regions like Salt Lake City and Denver, renting cars along the way and engaging with independent travel.

One of the most popular spots is the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming featuring dramatic canyons, forests and rivers.

Visa relaxation

A Chinese man takes a photo at the Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles. Source: Shutterstock/logoboom

According to the report, one of the main reasons for the influx of Chinese visitors into US is a November 2014 agreement between former President Barack Obama and Chinese leadership at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing.

At the summit, the US and China sealed a partnership that allowed for a 10-year reciprocal visa program between both countries. This meant Chinese tourists were granted multiple-entry travel into the US for the span of a decade, an upgrade from the initial one-year limitation.

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Chris Lam, operator of the Hong Kong Restaurant in the town of Cody in Wyoming, said, “Now they are getting more visas easily. Now we get more and more individuals. Every year, it is more and more.”

Recently, an agreement between the two countries to extend visas for short-term business travelers and students could also contribute to growth in the US. New research from the Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) revealed the US is the second most popular destination in the world among the Chinese behind France.

Among them, 29 percent of Chinese tourists to visit the US last year were found to be millennials.

The cowboy appeal

Gun ranges are a novelty for the Chinese. Source: Shutterstock

The AP report highlighted the Chinese are beginning to take notice of typically Western sensibilities often seen in movies.

Because of independent television, Western movies starring the likes of John Wayne are being screened in China, evoking a time that once was and, ultimately, travel plans to the elusive lands of the Old West.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West executive director and CEO Bruce Eldredge told AP: “Independent television is showing 1950s and 1960s Westerns.

“They’re interested in the West, the wide, open spaces. We sure do have a lot of that here.”

To woo the Chinese, Eldredge bought a full-page ad – featuring a classic Buffalo Bill Wild West poster – in a Chinese glossy travel magazine to publicize the center.

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If Chinese arrivals spike in Cody, Eldredge has plans to hire a Mandarin speaker as a summer employee. At present, the center sees 1,000 Chinese tourists annually.

There seems to be a sense of wonder among the Chinese towards the West – whether it’s the ability to buy guns in Walmart, enjoy vast spaces among scarce populations, or don cowboy hats and boots for photo opportunities, the Chinese are enamored.

Is US ready for China?

Two Chinese women taking a selfie in New York. Source: Shutterstock/Sorbis

Despite the current influx of Chinese tourists, the US is not equipped to adapt to cultural demands. Elliott Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC, the city’s convention and tourism organization, told Skift, “Americans traditionally lag behind what other international designations do for different cultures.”

“We just kind of assume one size fits all. Quite frankly, that’s just not welcoming,” he said.

Ferguson’s company last year launched “Welcome China”, a certification program for local businesses to tick requirements and needs specific to Chinese tourists.

SEE ALSO: Latin America prepares to welcome influx of Chinese tourists 

Through the program, tourist attractions are required to provide Chinese language maps, facilities to accept China Union Pay, audio tours in Mandarin, appropriate signage, Chinese subtitles in tourism videos, and Chinese social media accounts such as Weibo.

Hotels are expected to tick off details such as providing bedroom slippers, Chinese breakfast options, Chinese-language newspapers, availability of Chinese tea, CNY exchange service and Chinese language channels in hotel rooms.