The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB), in partnership with San Francisco International Airport (SFO), will travel on a sales mission to Asia this month to meet with airlines, tour operators, group organizers, media, and tourism and government officials. The sales mission, which has been in the works for several months, comes on the heels of recent legislation allowing Chinese citizens easier access to travel in the U.S.
“We’ve visited China several times in the past few years, recognizing the potential of this immense market for both leisure and business travel,” said Deborah Reinow, vice president of tourism for the SFCVB. “In the past, it was more difficult for Chinese citizens to travel to the U.S. for pure leisure purposes to the U.S. There are now 133 countries with Approved Destination Status and the rate of Chinese outbound travel is growing.”
The agreement was signed Dec. 11, 2007 between the China National Tourism Administration and the U.S. Commerce Secretary. This new arrangement will make it much easier for San Francisco to market itself as a travel destination for Chinese visitors, and it is expected to result in an increase in the number of Chinese leisure visitors in America beginning this spring. Currently, about 300,000 Chinese citizens visit the U.S. each year. This number is expected to increase to about 579,000 by 2011.
San Francisco was the first U.S. city and airport to have representation services in China. The SFCVB, in partnership with San Francisco International Airport (SFO), has had representation in Shanghai since 2001 and Beijing since 2006, working primarily with tour operators, press and government agencies.
The SFCVB launched a Chinese language Web site, onlyinsanfrancisco.com.cn, in December 2007 to provide important information about the City and SFO to prospective Chinese travelers.
“San Francisco is a natural beneficiary of the exponentially increased traffic from China due to the international appeal of the City, its strong ties to China and the high frequency of nonstop flights between San Francisco and
China,” Reinow said.
The agreement, called a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),” places the U.S. on a list of regions with “Approved Destination Status (ADS)” by the Chinese government, which allows facilitation of group leisure travel from China to the U.S. and destinations in the U.S. to market themselves more easily to Chinese citizens. Prior to the approval, Chinese citizens were granted travel visas to the U.S. only when traveling for business, educational or government purposes. The process of obtaining visas is to become simplified, with special policies for Chinese tour operators facilitating Chinese tour groups, making leisure travel to the U.S. much easier than in the past.
SFO currently offers seven daily nonstop flights from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Daily nonstop service from Guangzhou will begin on United Airlines in June 2008.