China, with its booming middle class and ravenous consumer spending, is a coveted market for American cities looking to give their tourism market a shot in the arm. New Orleans can now count itself among those cities with a foothold in the country.
The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and Louisiana Office of Tourism said Wednesday (Jan. 18) they have partnered with a Chinese firm to be the face of the Big Easy and Louisiana in China. The partnership will provide support for tourism trade sales and advertising campaigns to attract more Chinese tourists to the state.
East West Marketing Corp. will educate Chinese travel buyers about Louisiana and New Orleans through offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, according to a news release. In addition to trade sales, the company will assist with consumer marketing and social media promotions.
China's total outbound travel market is expected to approach 200 million people over the next five years, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Roughly 5 million Chinese visitors are expected to travel to the U.S. alone in 2020.
New Orleans is among cities vying for a slice of that business. The city hosted more than 100 Chinese delegates in 2015 for IPW 2016, the largest international travel trade show in the nation. Tourism leaders in September completed the last of two back-to-back missions to China to build ties in that country.
In the news release, Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the East West partnership is "the first step in a long-term strategy of cultivating this market and introducing New Orleans' unique attributes to the people of China."
How is this partnership expected to move the needle?
For one, East West will bring its knowledge of the local market to the table. The firm will be working to promote New Orleans and Louisiana on China-specific websites and social media, including WeChat and Weibo, a microblogging site that is like a Facebook and Twitter hybrid.
China also has a large population of first-time travelers. For that reason, many Chinese travelers prefer packaged group tours, which typically provide a translator and the company of fellow tourists. East West will provide support in selling tourism packages to travel buyers, who then turn around and peddle those packages to travelers. A travel buyer can be anyone from a travel agent to travel websites.
New Orleans does not yet have a direct flight to China, one aspect that could hinder efforts to attract more Chinese travelers to the city. Tourism leaders expect direct flights from China to Houston and Dallas to boost travel throughout the region.