It is the height of the summer vacation season, and the state that bills itself as “vacationland” is reeling-in tourists this year. From the other side of the world. In Bar Harbor, Maine, customers on Captain John Nicolai’s lobster-fishing tours are all but eating out of his hand. Nicolai’s clientele has been undergoing a sea-change.
“I used to get hardly any [Chinese tourists] and now I can say I get about 15 and 20 percent.”
On average, that’s 150 Chinese tourists a week. One big reason: Last month, the first direct flight from Beijing to Boston. Most Boston-visitors will take side-trips. And Maine is just up the coast. Over the next five years, the number of Chinese visitors to the U.S. is expected to more than double, from 1.8 million to 4.3 million. The average Chinese tourist in the U.S. spends over $7,000 a trip – more than any other nationality.
So Nicolai is not alone in rolling out the red carpet. Restaurants have menus in Chinese. Local businesses have even formed a marketing group to try to attract more Asian tourists. Nicolai’s guests appreciate that he is taking the trouble to learn their language.
“I love to take them out because they’re so interested in what we do here. And I think they bring the message back home,” says Nicolai.
Back home to China, where word is spreading about the big welcome awaiting them almost 7,000 miles away.