As many as 100,000 Chinese tourists could visit Seattle this year. For the first time, Chinese tourists could take over the top spot on Seattle’s overseas visitor list, surpassing Japanese tourists. That’s good news for hotels, restaurants and retailers. Chinese tourists spend an average of about $3,000 per person, significantly higher than other groups.
Visit Seattle is in the midst of it all. The private, nonprofit organization — which promotes tourism throughout King County — recently held a seminar to teach merchants how to accommodate Chinese tourists, who are visiting the entire U.S. in record numbers due to relaxed travel restrictions and a growing middle class.
Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk recently discussed with me why Seattle has become such a popular destination: Is Seattle always the destination? Often it’s the entry point. Seattle is that perfect gateway, especially for the Asian traveler. Asia is the closest gateway port. Seattle might garner a two-to-four-night stay, but it’s typically combined with other destinations around the state. A lot travel to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Florida or New York, but many are looking for that authentic, real USA experience, and they can find that in Seattle.
Is summer the busiest time? Not really. Seattle has become almost an 11-month destination. There are nuances to travel in Asia. The winter months are actually the best months for many to travel. Winter here is beautiful compared to Beijing, or some of the other U.S. cities. The Seahawks help tremendously. Having the Sonics back would be incredibly helpful. It would add a winter time frame for games.
What are some of the challenges the city faces? We’re hoping to play a large role in the ability to have translation for international visitors. It’s hard to find any way-finding that makes sense. Different styles of maps and street signs point to different services. I was always impressed with what Vancouver, B.C., had done following the Olympic Games. They did a fabulous job of consistent looking, well-lit, easy to understand kiosks in multiple places around the city.