“Most of the Chinese travelers we know will come in groups at first because we’re not a destination that they would first likely come to, like New York or Las Vegas or a national park,” said Dave Lorenz, international marketing manager for Travel Michigan, the official tourism board for the state. “But when they’re looking for the real American experience, we’ll be there, and we’ll already be marketing to them through the travel agency operator community.” The Michigan travel promotion agency signed a representation agreement with a local Chinese partner in October, and now has Michigan tourism offices in Beijing and Shanghai through the representative in the two cities.
The Pure Michigan campaign, which began almost a decade ago, was initially introduced as a tourism marketing initiative for the state, but eventually expanded to represent other marketing and non-tourism related entities as well.
The Michigan tourism bureau currently has no official data on the volume of Chinese tourists passing through the state, but it is working with the Department of Commerce and the Detroit Metro Convention Visitors Bureau, as well as economic consultancy Oxford Economics to determine baseline statistics.
The data will provide more insight into how the Chinese travel to Michigan, where they stay, what they do, and how much they spend, according to Lorenz.
“We know that the average international traveler right now spends around $4,700 per trip for leisure, so with all the middle class, the wealth in China right now, we’re just hoping to capture our fair share of that market, because we know that the product that we have here is a very compelling product,” Lorenz told China Daily.
Lorenz also said that the new 10-year visa extension is going to “change our world. Knowing that was coming up was one of the reasons why we decided to get into this market earlier than I think we might otherwise have.”
With the one-year visa, Michigan would have a hard time competing with places like New York, Las Vegas and US national parks, Lorenz said.
“Now with the 10-year visa, they can spread this out,” he said. “They can see those iconic cities from TV, and then now they can get into these other places like Michigan and other great Midwest states. That 10-year visa is going to do much more for states like Michigan, I believe, than they do for coastal cities and states, that would have otherwise gotten their business anyway,” he added.
Beyond tourism, Michigan is also courting Chinese business investment into the state as Detroit — the most populous state in Michigan — rebounds from bankruptcy.
China is the third-largest destination for Michigan eReaders’ Ratingxports, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Based on figures released in 2013, Michigan exported $3.2 billion worth of goods to China, ranking the nation behind Canada and Mexico.
The country is also the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for the state, making it the No 3 three US state for Chinese FDI in the green and brownfield category, which is when an entity makes an investment to start a new factory or manufacturing plant, as opposed to purchasing a pre-existing factory.
“We’re number three, behind only Texas and California, which are much, much bigger states. If you look at our per capita of Chinese investment we’ve attracted here, we’re certainly No 1,” said Brian Connors, China business development manager at the MEDC.
About 75 percent of China’s investment in Michigan is in the automotive industry, split between automotive research and development, warehouse and distribution, and manufacturing of auto parts. The remaining 25 percent is in machining, real estate and insurance, Connors said.
“In the past after 2008-09, the automotive industry was hit pretty hard by the crisis, so there’s still a pretty good value play to be made in Michigan too,” Connors said. “Even though the automotive industry has now rebounded to levels that they had prior to the automotive crash, there’s still an available labor force here that is highly educated and has a manufacturing culture.
“We also have building stock that’s in Michigan, where there are still some facilities available that are reasonable prices compared to what you can find in a lot of other states,” Connors said.
There is no Chinese automotive company that owns an assembly plant in Michigan, but there are companies considering the move, though Connors declined to comment further.
Michigan also has an abundance of water, making water prices some of the lowest in the country and attractive to water-specific Chinese businesses. Michigan water is extremely clean and readily available, making it attractive for companies looking to produce fish products, he said.
“Every company at some point will say, ‘Oh wow, Michigan water, high quality and really cheap,’ ” Connors said.
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Article: China Daily USA