China is California’s largest overseas tourist market and here on the Central Coast, businesses large and small are aiming to attract even more Chinese travelers.
The number of tourists visiting California from China exceeded one million in 2015 and is expected to surpass 1.6 million by 2018.
In 2014, Chinese visitors spent nearly $2.6 billion in the state, so local leaders are telling businesses that promoting the Central Coast is vital to the local economy.
According to San Luis Obispo Tourism Manager Molly Cano, business owners are interested in learning about the Chinese market in order to attract and keep these valuable travelers coming back.
"Our business should be prepared to be able to help them through their experiences here, not necessarily just from a language perspective but also from an ease of travel and how to get around," said Cano.
Cano said Chinese tourists are attracted to the Central Coast for its historic landmarks, places like Hearst Castle, the missions and even Bubblegum Alley.
Businesses large and small attended a seminar Wednesday morning to get tips on how to attract, engage and keep those valuable travelers visiting the Central Coast. The event was hosted by the organization, Visit San Luis Obispo County. President Chuck Davison said one major attraction for San Luis Obispo County is the fact that it is along Highway 1.
“It's an international destination for a lot of people. They want to come and experience that, but they also love the food and the wine and the ability to get out into the outdoors,” added Davison.
Atascadero's Holiday Inn Sales Director attended the seminar and said Chinese travelers spending money here is vital to the local economy.
"They like to explore, they like to spend their money, so it is great for the whole chain of businesses," said Jessica Sohi.
Sohi added that the Holiday Inn will update its social media platforms to sites familiar to Chinese visitors, like WeChat and Youku.
"Definitely making them feel comfortable, showing them that we are ready to welcome them with open arms, we want to have them experience the best of our Central Coast and we want them to feel comfortable and be able to come back," said Sohi.
Tourism is the second largest economic driver in San Luis Obispo County. International tourism spending reached $1.58 billion in 2015.