China's Travel Sellers Get Educational Boost From NTA, Commerce Dept.
Some 30 to 40 travel agents from China’s second- and third-tier cities will participate in an educational tour of the U.S. this November. The agents are coming to learn about American destinations as they prepare for growing demand at home.
The trip is part of a broad initiative by the NTA to educate Chinese travel agents about selling travel to the U.S. The effort also aims to steer Chinese agents away from tour operators whose low-ball tactics have resulted in bad experiences for first-time Chinese visitors.
The NTA is sponsoring the educational tour under its China Inbound Program, run in cooperation with the U.S. Commerce Department and the Chinese National Tourism Administration.
Teaching best practices
A Chinese language website launched by the NTA contains information on U.S. destinations, including videos and photos and tour itineraries. (See Resources, below.)
The website also encourages Chinese travel agents to book with reputable tour operators. Teaching Chinese travel agents how to get information about tour operators so they book with quality operators is a key educational issue, NTA president Lisa Simon told Travel Market Report.
The NTA is looking to address problems with inbound tour operators who advertise tours for $25 a day, then hit first-time Chinese travelers with outrageous prices for tour options and shopping.
“There are a lot of issues, [including] Chinese getting coerced into shopping where the tour operator and/or tour director are getting some type of a kickback,” Simon said. “One thing we can do is facilitate the introduction of Chinese travel agents to those operators that are quality.”
The NTA encourages Chinese travel agents to work through operators approved under the NTA Inbound Program. “That’s not to say they are the only operators qualified for this market,” Simon said.
The educational itinerary will follow a typical tour route for first-time visitors from China, visiting Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C., and ending in Las Vegas for NTA’s 2011 convention, Dec. 5 to 9.
“We will do the typical west-to-east tour, hitting the gateway destinations and ending in Las Vegas at the convention, so U.S. attendees and NTA tour operators have the opportunity to talk to these folks,” said Simon.
Outreach in China
The prime markets for the NTA Inbound Program are China's second-tier cities with a high per capita GDP, populations of about 30 million, and a travel trade that is prepared to organize outbound tours to the U.S.
The NTA China Inbound Program is reaching out to travel agents in cities such as Chengdu, Shenyang and Dalian.
The Chinese market for U.S. travel spans demographics and travel styles, Simon said.
The Chinese like to travel to the U.S. in groups because of the comfort level, especially for first-timers, said Simon, noting similarities with the Japanese inbound market in its early days.
Travelers from China’s major cities who have been to the U.S. before are looking for more authentic experiences than the well-trod tours of gateway cities, Simon said, citing anecdotal reports.“They want to see heartland cities, like Chicago and Milwaukee.”
Arrivals from China grew nearly 33% in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. By 2015, the number of Chinese visitors is expected to reach 2.3 million per year.
Please see NTA Sets Up Shop in Shanghai, Courts Inbound Travel from China, Jan. 27, 2011.
NTA’s Chinese language website. Includes information on U.S. destinations, videos, photos and tour itineraries.