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Philly wants more Chinese tourists

Updated: 2015-03-17 09:38
By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

Philly wants more Chinese tourists

The Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted. Philadelphia recently opened its first China tourism office in Beijing as the city seeks to attract more travelers from the country. Chinese tourists make up the city's fourth-largest international group. Provided to China Daily.

The City of Brotherly Love is joining other American cities in a push for Chinese tourists. Philadelphia's tourism bureau opened its first China office this month as Chinese become its fastest-growing foreign visitors.

"The numbers are always increasing. Right now, China is our No 4 market. These Chinese visitors are quite big spenders, spending about $3,000 per person," said Brian Said, executive director of tourism at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

China spent $122 million in Philadelphia in 2013, making them the highest-spending international market for the city, and Chinese tourists are the fourth-largest international group traveling to Philadelphia. About 40,000 tourists visited the home to the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence and the famous Philly cheesesteak, up from 31,000 in 2012.

"We expect that to grow. We're seeing in other big cities that the Chinese market is growing pretty fast, now with the increase of the time granted on the visa. This will encourage people to come back on return trips and come back again," Said told China Daily.

"A few years ago China and India weren't even in our top 10, now all of a sudden they're No 4 and No 5. We expect China to grow much faster than our mature markets. I think in the next three years, I wouldn't be surprised if China will be our No 2 market and eventually our No 1 market as well. I would say that by the end of the decade, China will definitely be our No 1 market," he said.

The tourism bureau partnered with East West Marketing Corp, a marketing agency, who will act as Philadelphia's official China tourism representative. Its new Beijing office is its first in East Asia and the Philadelphia visitor's bureau hopes to attract Chinese tourists by connecting with local tour operators and travel agencies, and spreading awareness through various Chinese social media platforms, where individual travelers often talk about their traveling experiences.

Said said that the bureau hopes to convince Chinese tourists that Philadelphia is worth a visit in addition to traveling to other destinations like New York City and Washington. "Many people don't realize that Philadelphia is quite close and that it's just a train ride away," he said.

The tourism bureau is hoping that the availability of transportation will draw in Chinese visitors looking to explore multiple East Coast cities in one trip and that the city's historical importance to the US will stand out.

A third selling point is that Philadelphia has no sales tax on clothing, shoes, and accessories, Said added, and that Chinese visitors, who spend the majority of their money on shopping, will stop by the city's shopping locations as well as the King of Prussia Mall, which is about 40 minutes away from Philadelphia. The mall claims to be the largest shopping mall in the US by leasable retail space.

There are currently no direct flights between Philadelphia and any major East Asian city, which Said said is a "big thing" on the tourism bureau's wishlist.

"Philadelphia is the largest market in the United States with no direct flight to the Asia-Pacific. Anybody who wants to come to Philadelphia needs to make a connection. But Newark is only 50 minutes away by train, and there are flights from China, Japan, and Hong Kong going to Newark," he said.

"So there are definitely ways to get here, but if we had non-stop flights to China, in a minute, China would become our No 1 market."



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