NOLA to Attract More Chinese Tourists?

Xiaosong Gao, the most popular and renowned composer, music director, writer, director, once said on his talk show program that New Orleans is his favorite city in the U.S. for the Cajun food, jazz music, French-style architecture, and welcoming southern people. However, despite historic 10.5 million visitors visiting New Orleans in 2016 and the city may have set a new record in 2017 ahead of its tricentennial celebration in 2018, Chinese tourists still accounted for a relatively small portion of the visitors considering they are likely the city’s biggest potential market.

Could NOLA attract more Chinese tourists and capture a slice of China’s booming tourism market?

Looking into what resources NOLA has to win this tourism economic campaign, firstly we can easily count on the pleasantsouthern climate, which would be very suitable for traveling during the peak period of Chinese holidays, such as Spring Festival and National Day. Secondly, the city has countless events and natural beauties. Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and swamp preserves, etc. are all unique and attractive to Chinese visitors although currently they are still underrated and seldom known to most of Chinese. Thirdly, New Orleans used to be a hub to Latin America and Caribbean countries, which would be redeveloped and leveraged as a resource to create new travel routes packing NOLA and LAC together as a niche product.

The Chinese tourists are characterized by the following customer habits: Many Chinese travelers prefer packaged group tour typically with a translator and the company of fellow tourists. Shopping is an indispensable part of the itinerary. With the booing of Chinese middle-class and the consuming upgradetrend among them, Chinese travelers contributed the most to both luxury boutiques and department stores on the fifth avenue and outlets or factory stores in California.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, China’s total outbound travel market is expected to approach 200 million people over the next five years, among which roughly 5 million are expected to travel to the U.S. alone in 2020. What segments of these Chinese visitors that NOLA should target and provide specific travel products and services? Those non-first-time visitors to the U.S. should be targeted after they traveled either eastern or western coast and felt some different culture in the nation could be added to their later visit to the U.S. Meanwhile, those really appreciate the unique heritage of Jazz music, Mardi Gras traditions and the vibe of “Big Easy” could form a niche market segment. For those first-time travelers, a well-designed package composed of west coast essentials, 3 or 4 days stay in NOLA, and a cruise trip to LAC might be an alternative offering.

To attract more Chinese tourists, what potentials or possible approaches that NOLA could offer or make a plan to create in the near future to capture this promising economic opportunity? A nearly $1 billion new terminal is expected to open at Louis Armstrong International Airport in early 2019. A direct flight line between New Orleans and China might be introduced to ease the gateway to New Orleans for Chinese travelers, since the city may have set a new record in 2017 in overseas visitors partly contributed to the addition of transatlantic nonstop flights between the Crescent City and London and Frankfurt. Another alternative is to build a large shopping center, an outlets format would be feasible probably, with present tax refund beneficial, aiming at Chinese tourists besides the casino which is more popular to Westerners. Finally, as mentioned above, a package combo product including tours in NOLA and a cruise trip would be more attractive considering the long transpacific flight time and jet lag necessity a 10- to 15-day trip to the U.S. and only one city stay would not be deemed as cost-efficient by Chinese tourists.

Looking forward, New Orleans now has a partner in its effort to lure more Chinese tourists. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and Louisiana Office of Tourism said on Jan.18, “The partnership will provide support for tourism trade sales and advertising campaigns to attract more Chinese tourists to the state.” However, would a Trump presidency affect New Orleans tourism? The incurred trade war between the largest two economies could cast uncertainties on preserving travel-friendly policies and enthusiasm of Chinese travelers to the U.S. as well.


Featured picture: French Quarter tourists stop and take pictures of New Orleans still-life artist and street performer Uncle Louie poses in his signature stride on Royal Street in the French Quarter on January 31, 2014. (Photo by Julia Kumari Drapkin, | The Times-Picayune)