Exclusive Interview: Chinese travelers’ boom in Seattle

November 14, 2016 Alan Guacaran

John Boesche - Director of Visit Seattle
John Boesche – Director of Visit Seattle

120 million travelers from China went overseas in 2015, according to statistics from the China National Administration of Tourism. And approximately 115K of them visited Seattle. We had the opportunity to speak with John Boesche, Director of Visit Seattle to learn more about this important opportunity for the hospitality industry in the Pacific Northwest.

1) What’s Visit Seattle and what’s its main goal?

Visit Seattle is a private, nonprofit marketing organization serving as Seattle and King County’s official destination marketing organization (DMO) for more than 50 years. Through our efforts, we work to enhance the employment opportunities and economic prosperity of the region.

2) Have you observed an increment in the number of Chinese travelers visiting Seattle?

China is now Seattle’s #1 overseas market, surpassing Japan and the UK two years ago. Seattle is fortunate to have tremendous airlift from our partners at Delta Air Lines, Hainan Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines (who launched service to Shenzhen on September 26).

3) How’s the hospitality industry leveraging this influx of visitors?

Many of our hotel partners have created Chinese-specific services to help visitors feel more welcome. Similarly, restaurants and tour operators have begun translating menus, brochures, and audio guides. Visit Seattle is focused on working with city officials and private partners to ensure there is adequate signage and materials available in Mandarin.

4) Do you think this trend will keep growing in the next years?

Relaxed visa policies really opened the door to increased visitation from China to the United States. For us in Seattle, the increased airlift was an added boost and likely the reason we’ll see sustained growth for the foreseeable future. We are working closely with our airline partners to ensure these flights are successful.

5) What do they like? What are they looking for in the city?

Chinese visitors do an incredible job of exploring many of Seattle’s key attractions and points of interests. Places like Pike Place Market, the Boeing Tour, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, EMP Museum, are commonly visited by the Chinese market. We are noticing that Chinese visitors are beginning to explore further into the destination, however, as the market matures. Regional points of interest, like Mt. Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and Woodinville Wine Country, are great examples.

6) Do you think hotels in Seattle are leveraging the feedback they get from their Chinese guests?

Some of our hoteliers have done a great job learning from the Chinese market, while some are just beginning to provide specialized amenities and services. The Pan Pacific Seattle is a great example – they have not only provided in-room amenities and a Chinese breakfast option, but they have a Mandarin-speaking staff program, which ensures that they have a Mandarin-speaking staff available 24/7.

7) How’s the hospitality industry reaching out to new visitors (in China?) are hotels launching their own marketing campaigns?

Visit Seattle has an active presence in the China market, utilizing the service of an in-market representation firm. This allows our organization to work closely with travel trade, media, airline partners, and more on a daily basis. Many of our larger hotel partners are active in promoting to the China market through company-wide marketing initiatives. Our destination also conducts an annual sales mission to China – this year was on October 10-14. A delegation of 20 members will visit Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, hosting multiple events in each city.

Did you enjoy this interview? Discover now how to leverage this unique opportunity for your hotel: 中国游客 Zhōngguó Yóukè (The Chinese Tourist) – The New Opportunity for Hotels in the Pacific Northwest.

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