BEIJING — Chinese travelers want in, big time.
Hainan Airlines on Friday begins nonstop service from Beijing to Las Vegas, and pent-up demand for Chinese travel to the U.S. bodes well for Las Vegas.
For travelers like Peter Zhou, who lives in Xinjiang but is visiting Beijing for a vacation, said Las Vegas is as good as any other entry point into the United States.
Zhou said he would travel back to Beijing to travel nonstop to Las Vegas. He has yet to come to the United States. “I would like to travel there,” he said.
Li Ning, another aspiring Chinese traveler to the U.S., has a similar perspective.
“Las Vegas … from what I recall (Las Vegas) is a gambling city, a colorful city. I don’t really have an opinion. If I do visit Las Vegas, it would just be a destination,” he said.
For others, Las Vegas is a brand name.
“It’s a famous city. I want to go there,” Yuchia Zhang said.
Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, found the U.S. is the only long-haul destination among China’s top ten destinations. Additionally, Brand USA found that among Chinese intercontinental travelers, 60 percent desire to travel to the U.S.
Each weekday morning, a visa line at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing of mostly Chinese people spans about three blocks.
The reasons Chinese people want to come to the U.S. are plentiful.
“We all know that Chinese people like shopping,” said Peter Phang, managing director of the Las Vegas convention and visitors authority’s China office. “A lot of people still come (to the U.S.) for shopping,” but shopping is actually ranked as the fourth reason why Chinese travelers choose to come to the United States, he said.
Brand USA research from 2015 shows that 69 percent of Chinese travelers cited ecotourism and nature as their top reason for choosing to come to the United States. Ecotourism and nature is followed by urban attractions, such as nightlife and city tours, with 65 percent, then cultural and historical attractions with 64 percent, and then shopping at 61 percent.
“You must understand why Chinese people like shopping,” said Barry Lin, senior director of tourism resources at online travel booking service Tuniu.com. “Of course, they need to buy something for themselves. But the other thing is most important. When they go abroad, they need to buy some gift for the family or for their general manager, or president, or something that is a gift. It is the Chinese way.”
Overall, Phang and Lin said the U.S. has some major upsides compelling Chinese visitors to come, including a reciprocal 10-year visa policy that was implemented last year for American and Chinese tourists and business travelers.
Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Lin also said the perception of safety and a stable government is a key factor in making the U.S. a favorable destination.
When Chinese arrive to the U.S., a growing number of travelers are looking for experiences that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.
Xiaosheng Huang, a Chinese immigration lawyer in Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Las Vegas has a lot to offer Chinese travelers on that front.
“Right now the Chinese tourists are coming over here not only for going to the casino, but also they want to have some niche entertainment, such as shooting, helicopter riding or even (to) learn how to fly an aircraft,” he said.
Phang also mentioned a Chinese affinity for shooting ranges.
“It’s just something that’s popular, because it’s something they can’t do back home, so it becomes an experience that they can do somewhere else.”
Contact Nicole Raz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.