News / USA

    Chinese Go to Los Angeles for Kobe Bryant, But Skip the Beach

    Los Angeles celebrated its fifth straight year of record-breaking tourism, and visitors from China make up the second-largest group of international travelers to the California city.
    Los Angeles celebrated its fifth straight year of record-breaking tourism, and visitors from China make up the second-largest group of international travelers to the California city.
    Reuters

    As Los Angeles celebrates its fifth straight year of record-breaking tourism, officials in part can thank visitors from China who, despite their reputed disdain for lying on the beach, now make up the second-largest group of international travelers to this sun-drenched city.

    In fact, China — which a decade ago was not a major player in the Southern California tourism game — last year sent nearly 800,000 people to visit the shops, museums and tourist attractions in and around America's second-largest city. And Chinese tourists often stay longer and spend more money than their counterparts from elsewhere in the world.

    "There is a fascination in China for Los Angeles," Ernest Wooden, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention bureau, told Reuters in an interview.

    "It's easy to imagine that much of what the Chinese know about living in the United States, the slang, the hip hop, the technology, comes from the movies," Wooden said. "And L.A. has that pedigree."

    That fascination drove a 13 percent increase in visitors from China over 2014. Wooden said he expects the trend to continue for at least another few years, defying that country's softening economy.

    FILE - A campus scene at the University of California-Los Angeles.
    FILE - A campus scene at the University of California-Los Angeles.

    Chinese travelers are also major educational tourists. Those seeking a Western education for their children often choose UCLA or the University of Southern California, which is second only to New York University in enrolling foreign-born students.

    Medical tourism draws patients from China to hospitals such as Cedars Sinai, City of Hope and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, seeking cutting-edge treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses.

    Warm beer and Kobe Bryant

    Wooden also credits an aggressive outreach centered on the city pitching its charms directly to the Chinese people, the first major U.S. city to do so. The effort, which started with ensconcing city employees in Beijing nearly a decade ago, was later expanded to Shanghai and, this year, Guangzhou.

    Last year Los Angeles launched its so-called NiHao China program, which includes a Chinese-language website, a larger presence on the popular Weibo social media site, and partnerships with major travel companies serving that market.

    Chinese tourists "love the Lakers, they deify Kobe Bryant," said the CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention bureau.
    Chinese tourists "love the Lakers, they deify Kobe Bryant," said the CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention bureau.

    Part of that marketing success involves the city's efforts to understand and cater to Chinese tourists, Wooden said, most of whom do not sunbathe and typically spend little time appreciating Southern California's famed beaches.

    Instead they are drawn by the museums, Hollywood, amusement parks such as Disneyland in nearby Orange County, and upscale shopping centers, spending more than most tourists and tending to stay in town longer.

    Wooden said hotels have learned such cultural nuances as serving beer warm, providing slippers for Chinese visitors who would rather not walk barefoot on carpet and offering television stations that broadcast in Mandarin.

    Vicky Liu of Galaxy Tour Inc., which specializes in serving the Chinese market, said Los Angeles has gotten some of those seemingly smaller details right, such as having someone at hotels who can speak the language.

    But Wooden concedes that the ground is moving under the city's feet. A new, more sophisticated generation of travelers is coming into its own, moving away from tour groups in favor of their own itineraries, planned on smartphones.

    "They will come here and rent cars on their own,” he said. “They are wealthier, often highly educated, and willing to venture out to San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas. They love the Lakers, they deify Kobe Bryant. That's a demographic shift."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora