Published on : Monday, April 6, 2015
As more Chinese citizens travel to the United States, the National Tour Association (NTA) has registered more tour operators to serve them. Following another record-setting year for China-to-U.S. travel, enrollment in NTA’s China Inbound Program topped 200 tour operators this year. The program provides connections, said Jin Xu of Chicago-based Dream USA Travel Group.
“We gained exposure in several expos and trade shows initiated by NTA in China, and our staff also received training during China-inbound familiarization trips in the U.S.,” he said. “Plus, we take part in a member-only WeChat group for timely information sharing and business development with peer companies.”
In 2014 the China Inbound Program conducted familiarization trips to Arizona; Houston and Galveston Beach, Texas; Park City, Utah, and this year, New Orleans. The trips were organized in collaboration with NTA supplier and DMO members, helping the program’s operators explore new destinations and develop new product and itineraries beyond the gateway cities.
Along with assisting tour operators, NTA has worked with hotels and other tour suppliers to help them become “China-ready.” Haybina Hao, NTA’s director of international development, leads workshops in cities across North America, explaining Chinese customs and expectations to industry insiders working with the group leisure travel market.
“It took time for American travel professionals to learn about the Chinese market and become confident working with it,” Hao said. “It’s been eight years since we opened the market up, but it’s a scary market for some because it’s so complex-culturally, politically and the way the Chinese do business.”
Hao’s sessions help suppliers understand how to meet travelers’ expectations, how to conduct a cultural analysis and how to deal with the unexpected. She also provides translation services and encourages tour suppliers to make their information-in print and online available in Chinese.
Nearly 2.2 million Chinese visitors traveled to the United States last year, a 21 percent increase over 2013. And by 2019, China is projected by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office to become the third largest inbound market, sending some 4.9 million visitors to U.S. destinations.
What’s behind the surge? It’s mostly a numbers game, as the world’s most populous country has a rising middle class with the ambition and the money to travel. And two recent changes for China’s travel visas have boosted numbers even higher. The U.S. State Department opened more consular offices in China in 2013, reducing the wait time for visa application processing. And in November 2014, the visa validity period was extended from one to 10 years, making it easier for Chinese travelers to return to the United States for a second or third visit.
With expanded travel has come broadened diversity within NTA’s program. “We have small companies, but we also have one with a fleet of 47 planes to fly its travelers,” Hao said. “Our operators also vary in the services and products they offer, including online capabilities and outbound tours to China.”
Next week, NTA President Pam Inman will lead an NTA board delegation to China, where, along with Hao, they will meet with core constituents of the Chinese travel trade, including government officials and owners of key Chinese travel agencies. The delegation also will attend the China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market and the World Travel Market Vision Conference.
“And back in the U.S., we help China Inbound Program operators get Chinese travelers into more motorcoaches, hotels, restaurants, stores, parks and attractions,” Hao said.
Tour operators can catch up on current developments at NTA’s China Market Forum, scheduled for Aug. 20–22 in Savannah, Georgia, as part of Contact, the association’s annual tour operator retreat.
Tags: chinese citizens, National Tour Association, NTA