Arizona expects China to become the U.S. state's No. 1 source of international visitors in the not-too-distant future after 20 percent increasing in 2016, the Arizona tourism authority said.
"We are certainly confident that visitation from China to Arizona will continue to increase as Chinese travelers learn about Arizona experiences beyond the Grand Canyon. We are intensifying our efforts to provide resources about Arizona to tour operators and journalists in China," Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism told Xinhua via email.
Visitation from China increased 20 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year. Nearly 77,000 Chinese travelers came to Arizona in 2016, making China the state's No. 4 source of overseas visitors (behind Germany, Britain and France). But the potential for increased visitation from the world's most populous nation dwarfs that of its European counterparts, according to a research released last month by the Arizona Office of Tourism.
"First and foremost, Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon, which is one of the most photographed places on earth and is arguably America's most famous national park. Another advantage Arizona has over other U.S. states is the ease with which it allows visitors to transition from urban areas - where there are plenty of distinctive dining, shopping and lodging options - to iconic places where you can experience outdoor adventure and the beautiful landscapes of the American West. Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff are all launch points to national parks and monuments, American Indian lands, and destinations - such as Monument Valley - made famous in John Wayne movies. There is so much to see, and it's all located in one state," Johnson stated.
China is one of the fastest-growing overseas market of Arizona, which witnessed the seventh-consecutive year's increase of Chinese visitors. Johnson credits some of that increase to the increasing awareness of Arizona in China. The Arizona Office of Tourism has conducted several media and travel-trade missions to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Arizona tourism officials have also partnered with Brand USA to bring Chinese media, influencers and travel professionals to Arizona. These programs are designed to educate journalists, travel agents and tour operators about Arizona's tourism assets.
Chinese are active on social-media, and images of places like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley have a huge impact on travel behavior of Chinese visitors. "Chinese travelers can expect to see more information about Arizona on websites such as Ctrip, Youku and Expedia," said Johnson.
"The northern region of Arizona has been very popular with Chinese visitors. This is where Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and Monument Valley are located. But as more and more Chinese travelers visit Arizona each year, we see that they are expanding their itineraries to include places such as Saguaro National Park, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the wild-west town of Tombstone-all of which are located in the southern part of the state. Self-driving tours along scenic or historic roads-such as Route 66-are also popular with Chinese travelers," she added.
The tourism authority said their marketing efforts in China are paying dividends. As more affordable and more frequent air service becomes available to China's exploding middle class, "I would not be surprised to see the growth in Chinese visitors to Arizona rise above 20 percent next year," the director told Xinhua.