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Reno-Tahoe to Become ‘China Ready’


Image: Carla O’Day.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) board stepped up efforts Thursday to attract tourists from China, approving a three-year contract with a consulting firm to promote the area and get it ready for Chinese visitors.

Chicago-based PHG Consulting Group, a subsidiary of Preferred Hospitality Group with five offices in China, got the $144,000 per year contract. RSCVA has the option to renew the contract for two subsequent years, although such amounts will be analyzed and submitted to the board annually for approval.

This decision was in line with the board’s adopted strategic plan that addresses expanding international efforts.

Paul Cohen, vice president of development at PHG Consulting. Image: PHG Consulting.

Paul Cohen, PHG vice president of development, said his company will get the Reno-Lake Tahoe area “China ready.” This includes a welcome plan, working with tour operators based in the Bay Area to sell Reno, billboards in Bay Area airports, and helping local businesses with signage. Targeting cross-country drivers is also key, he said, since many fly into San Francisco, rent vehicles and head east on Interstate 80.

Working with businesses to get on board with China UnionPay, WeChat Pay, and Alipay is also critical because not many Chinese carry Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, he said.

Cohen said Chinese have more freedom to travel than they once did and acquiring visas has become easier in recent years.

“When their parents grew up and when they grew up, China was a closed society,” Cohen said. “They’re now free to see the world and they watch American TV. They want to come here and see how Americans live.”

Chinese are eager to see things they can’t see at home and want to buy things they can’t get at home.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t think you had the product,” Cohen told the board. “You have a true gem in Virginia City.”

Photo: Virginia City Tourism Commission

Cohen noted bull riding, historic trains, paddle boats, the U.S Bowling Congress, and pretend gun fights in the street as other examples Chinese people might see as unique. He said Chinese tourists are known for waking up early and spending their day visiting as many destinations as possible. In other words, he said they don’t typically sit on a beach for hours with their feet in the sand.

“They don’t sleep all day,” Cohen said. “They want to do it all and see it all. They don’t care about the weather. They travel year round.”

The China market has expanded the past few years, according to the RSCVA Tourism Department. Examples are as follows:

  • There are nearly 50,000 flights from mainland China to the western U.S. each week.
  • Visits from China to the U.S. are up 17 percent from 2015.
  • In the next 5 years, more than 16 million Chinese tourists will visit the U.S.
  • Chinese students number about 304,000 and many of their families visit several times.
  • Outbound Chinese visitors spent almost $110 billion in 2016.

Chinese outspend Mexicans an average of 4-to-1 and outspend the British about 2-to-1, said Art Jimenez, RSCVA executive director of tourism.

“They’re coming over two, three, and four times to look at universities,” Jimenez said. “After the parents go home, those students travel around the U.S.”

Although international visitation to the U.S. is down, visits from China have increased, Jimenez said. The most common destinations are the Bay Area and northeast.

“We don’t have to convince these visitors to come to America,” Jimenez said. “We have to convince them to come here.”

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.




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