|“Each province has its own draw,” says Luo, citing the appeal of Hainan Island to beach lovers as one example.|
Weijian Luo, the new deputy director of the China National Tourist Office (CNTO), and Dawei Wu, the outgoing deputy director, spoke with Travel Agent at a farewell party held in Wu’s honor in Los Angeles on August 30. Prior to his new posting in Los Angeles, Luo served as a director in the CNTO’s offices in Singapore and Switzerland. Wu, whose three-year term ended this year, is returning to Beijing this month to work on an assignment for the China National Tourism Administration at the Beijing Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Both Luo and Wu shared their perspectives on China’s tourism strategy for the U.S. market with us.
Travel Agent: China has seen great tourism success in the past few years. How do you plan to continue building on that success and momentum?
LUO: I live for promoting China as a tourist destination, but I also know that the CNTO can’t do it alone and that we have to establish partnerships with travel agencies, airlines and travel media to do that. I’m looking forward to using teamwork to make our efforts more efficient and more successful.
We really have to work on intensifying our marketing initiatives through travel road shows and by developing more promotional campaigns. We also need to target more specialized travel markets, including high-end luxury, cruise, MICE and corporate travel. To do that, I’m learning from Mr. Wu’s experience and how he’s implemented teamwork to make things better.
WU: During my three years here in Los Angeles, I got a tremendous amount of help and assistance from our trade partners. I’m very happy—and quite lucky—to have had their support. I’m so proud of my team, and my job was also made much easier by the fact that we had the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 World Expo—both of which brought more travelers to China than ever before. The U.S. market was always doing very well and visitation was always up, even during the economic downturn. I definitely want to see Mr. Luo build on the successes that we have already seen.
Travel Agent: What are some common misconceptions you hope to dispel about traveling to China?
LUO: China is developing dramatically and is undergoing modernization at a very large scale. We want our travel industry partners to know that things in China are changing every day and that there is a brand-new image of China emerging all the time. So, no matter when you travel to China or if you’ve been there before, there is always something new to see and experience.
|Dawei Wu and Weijian Luo at the farewell party held in Wu’s honor in Hollywood.|
Travel Agent: Given the fluctuating U.S. economy, would you say travel to China is still financially feasible for the long-haul U.S. market?
LUO: According to the CNTO, some 32 percent of U.S. travelers go to China for business and that’s indicative of the fact that our economy is growing quickly. There are many business opportunities to be found in China. And even though the U.S. economy has seen its share of problems, China’s economy can be an alternative, especially for business-minded travelers and entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, costs of travel within China are still very low in comparison, as well, since the country is still very much in development.
Travel Agent: Now that many Americans are familiar with Beijing and Shanghai, courtesy of the Olympics and the World Expo, which other regions or parts of China are waiting to be discovered by U.S. travelers?
LUO: We have so much to offer in China. There are 41 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For beaches, you can go to Hainan Island. The Hunan Province is so culturally rich with many different ethnicities. In the Western region, we have the Gobi Desert and the snow mountains. Each province has its own draw and each one is worth it for visitors to travel to. We also plan to work with the tourism boards of Macau and Hong Kong in a joint effort to promote China as a whole.
Travel Agent: How do you plan to work with travel agents specifically?
LUO: In the past, we’ve arranged lots of fam trips for agents to experience China firsthand, and we will continue to do that going forward. We also have an online training program that gives them information on China as a destination. And for agents who want to conduct seminars on travel to China for their clients, we will send them material and offer the personal support of our staff, too. We are also planning to invite travel agents to participate in local exhibitions and travel road shows.
Travel Agent: What specific goals do you have in mind for promoting travel to China in the next three years?
LUO: Last year, China saw 2 million visitors from the U.S. alone. We hope that, by 2012, it will reach at least 2.5 million. That’s a great challenge for me and a target we want to achieve. The tourism industry between the U.S. and China is growing very well, and I want to build up even more confidence in the strength of China as a tourism destination for U.S. travelers so that our industry partners are more enthusiastic about selling travel to the country. I want more confidence in our airline partners so that they will add more routes and increase flight frequencies.
In my term, I hope people feel more confident in promoting travel to China; we will try our best to bring more satisfaction to our clients and partners.