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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora