I recently wrote about Cuba being a hot destination topic, but now it’s time to recognize the emerging importance of China to not only travel but also just about everything on this planet including the recent downward spiral of the numbers coming from Wall Street. And while I’m not attempting to solve the world financial crises here in the Hive (we have to leave something for politicians to do, right?), I do want to talk about the entrance of numerous Chinese travelers and investors into our own little corner of the planet right here in Central Florida.
And for those of you that think we are besieged by visitors from Brazil and the UK you are technically correct. Numbers from Visit Orlando show that’s where the majority of foreign visitors to Central FL come from to the tune of 770,000 and 759,000 respectively in 2013 alone (last available statistics). But want to know who’s expected to be coming in record numbers in the future? HINT: the answer is in this blog’s title.
Yep, it’s China. Chinese tourists are now said to be very keen on making the 8,000+ mile trek that takes about 17.5 hours of in-flight travel time to get from there to here (no direct routes yet either, so add connecting times/airport waits and you’ve got the better part of a two day journey, each way) even though they’re not necessarily sun worshippers. And if that’s not surprising enough, here’s another tidbit about these visitors: due in large part to the bottomless pit of advertising dollars we’re collectively pouring into this new travel market, the Chinese think that Central Floridians offer a prime example of Western Culture. Imagine that? Floridians are now viewed, at least by some in the world, as true Americans! Wow.
And here’s another potentially surprising statistic: China’s population is currently over 1.4 billion which keeps it at the top of the leader board when ranking countries by virtue of population. By comparison, USA has over 325 million and is ranked #3 in population stats.
So want to know where I’m going with all this? Right back here to Central Florida where members of the collective hospitality community recently rolled out the red carpet by hosting a prestigious group of the Asian travel community for a three day familiarization trip highlighting Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, and Deland along with a whole lot of other area love thrown in. Put together by the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for delegates that traveled to Orlando to attend the June conference of International Pow Wow (IPW, organized each year by the U.S. Travel Association), this area fam trip packed in quite a bundle of Florida hot-spots without ever stepping foot into any of the fantasy theme park destinations. Why? Because we’re learning that Chinese travelers prefer authentic local experiences, and turns out we’ve got plenty of those to offer, too.
But those of us that live here already knew that, right?
Now don’t get me wrong, the Hive is not professing to proclaim that Chinese travelers are shunning the theme parks. But we do have it on good authority that these members of the new travel frontier want to learn more about what make Americans tick as opposed to how we escape reality and live out our fantasy life. And they’re spending serious money to prove that by dishing out on -by some reports – an average of $7,000 USD per person during trips outside China.
Further, one quick look at some area websites including our own Visit Orlando Media page shows translation of press kits in just three languages – Spanish, Portuguese, and you guessed it -Chinese.
And just this morning there was an announcement in the Orlando Sentinel business section about the launch of a Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Central Florida with the primary quote being, “[Chinese] have money, and they can’t let their money sit in China now. They know Disney and Universal Studios, but some of them may not know where Orlando is, or even Florida for sure.”
For final proof of the growing US interest in courting the Chinese travel market just take a look at what Hilton is doing to make these visitors more comfortable when they leave home base. Hilton Worldwide announced the expansion of it’s Hilton Huanying program (the word Huanying means Welcome) that offers Chinese travelers a customized hospitality experience during their stay at Hilton properties around the world. The program assures that each participating hotel has staff members that speak Mandarin, rooms have special amenities like slippers, Chinese language TV stations, teakettles and a welcome letter in Chinese. All are little but important things that this new market segment will be expecting as they venture out into the world. As Conrad Hilton himself used to say, “it’s all about the hospitality”, and you can bet your last Mickey Mouse dollar that other hotels are soon to follow this lead.
Now welcoming all Chinese visitors to Florida!