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Monterey works to attract Chinese tourists
As Chinese middle-class travelers regularly visit the gateway cities to California, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, the state's smaller cities are gearing up to attract those seeking different experiences.
"Chinese visitors want to get a more authentic experience of California," said Rob O'Keefe, chief marketing officer of the Monterey County Convention and Tourism Bureau.
"When you go to LA, for example, you have things that are very popular among Chinese visitors - Hollywood, Disney, but travelers want to look beyond those things that are better known," he said.
He said his agency has seen increasing numbers of Chinese visitors to Monterey County, about a two-hour drive south from San Francisco. "We want to position ourselves as an attractive choice for Chinese travelers," he said.
Early this year, Visit California and Tuniu, a major Chinese online tourism operator, collaborated to design four customized routes for Chinese family tourists.
The routes include destinations that are getting popular among young Chinese travelers between San Francisco and Los Angeles, such as Napa Valley, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.
"In the past, Chinese tourists just stayed on the West Coast and East Coast. But there is actually a lot of potential in terms of resources between San Francisco and Los Angeles," said Barry Lin, senior director of tourism resources with Tuniu.
Chinese visitors were satisfied with just seeing those landmarks on their trips, but young travelers, especially millennials, and family travelers are tending to stay longer and seek more experiences, he said.
"When they stay longer, they bring more value to the local industry," Lin added.
Monterey County has had proactive marketing programs for Chinese visitors for the last several years, because "we recognize early on the importance of Chinese travelers because California is the No. 1 choice in terms of state when they come to the US," said O'Keefe.
The county has several destinations featured in the Visit California and Tuniu's customized routes, including Cannery Row, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Bixby Bridge and Pebble Beach. The Highway 1 driving experience also is a major attraction.
"We found nature and scenic beauty is a big attraction. Chinese travelers are familiar with San Francisco and Los Angeles, and they are looking to get beyond those destinations and get the real California experience," he said.
The four customized routes are designed for family tourists, who will become the major part of overseas tourists in the future, said Lin.
"Such small groups usually consist of two families - four adults and two children - so the fully packed big group itineraries don't suit their needs," he said.
In March, Tuniu launched ads in China featuring custom tour routes. The company plans to invest an estimated $4 million in media throughout 2017 to promote the new Tuniu-Visit California spots and the new travel products.
  Source: China Daily

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