By Lia Zhu
The number of visitors to Los Angeles in 2016 from China increased by more than 21.9 percent over last year, making it the first US city to have more than 1 million visitors from China, city officials and tourism industry executives said on Wednesday.
The city also had a record 7.1 million international visitors in 2016, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year, and China accounted for 75 percent of that growth, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference.
In 2016, China surpassed Canada as the second-biggest source of international visitors to Los Angeles, behind Mexico, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. It’s the seventh consecutive year of at least 20 percent visitation growth for China.
In 2017, the number of tourists from China is forecast to increase 12 percent, according to the board.
“As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles offers an endless array of iconic experiences that are attractive to the Chinese traveler such as the Hollywood sign, Universal Studios Hollywood, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Boulevard or seeing the Los Angeles Lakers play at Staples Center,” said Ernest Wooden Jr, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
Chinese tourists also visit to experience the wealth of shopping options that Los Angeles is known for, especially luxury goods, he added.
“But Los Angeles is also more than just the entertainment capital of the world: The city is a cultural destination, boasting more museums than any other US city. We find that 42 percent of Chinese travelers visit our cultural institutions such as The Getty Center, LACMA and The Broad because history, heritage and iconic masterpieces appeal to them very much,” Wooden said.
According to the latest data the board has available, in 2015, Chinese visitors directly spent $1.3 billion in Los Angeles, the most of any international market, with the average daily spending per visitor $212 and the average length of stay 7.3 nights.
There are 68 average non-stop weekly flights from China to Los Angeles, with a weekly average of 21,510 seats, the board said.
The tourism board said it will continue to invest in the China market, and Chengdu will become the location of its fourth China office when it opens by the end of June, joining Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
“Los Angeles recognized the vast potential of the inbound Chinese tourism market early on, as we were the first municipal tourism marketing organization in the US to open a full-time office in China (Beijing),” Wooden said.
“Our accelerated marketing efforts in China have produced remarkable results: in less than a decade, China has surged to become Los Angeles’ number one overseas tourist market – from not even ranking in our top 10 international markets 10 years ago,” he said.
Wooden said his board has been advised to understand the nuances of Chinese culture and the preferences of Chinese visitors, which are always evolving.
“For example, we have seen a recent rising trend in free FIT (free independent travel) and millennial travel as Chinese visitors are now more likely to travel alone than in a group,” he said. “There will always be something new for visitors to discover in LA – whether it’s their second, third or even fourth visit.”
Despite a strong US dollar, Wooden said experts and their consultants predict a minimal, if at all measureable, impact on Los Angeles tourism.
“Our research calls for double-digit tourism growth to Los Angeles out of China for at least the next year. And travel is bipartisan; political leaders on both sides will always agree on the tourism industry’s economic benefits, as well as benefits for our diplomatic relations with other countries,” said Wooden.