The new U.S. Visa System and traveler facilitation reforms will increase the number of wealthy Chinese tourists in the U.S.

The U.S. Travel industry worked with Congressional appropriators to secure significant victories related to U.S. visa system and traveler facilitation reforms in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012. The legislation reflects 2011 advocacy efforts by the U.S. Travel Association to improve the U.S. economy, remove barriers to travel and improve the travel process.

The U.S. Travel industry worked with Congressional appropriators to secure significant victories related to U.S. visa system and traveler facilitation reforms in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012. The legislation reflects 2011 advocacy efforts by the U.S. Travel Association to improve the U.S. economy, remove barriers to travel and improve the travel process.

“This legislation is an acknowledgment by Congress that reforms to the U.S. visa and entry systems and passenger screening process are key to improving our nation’s economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Clearly, the travel community is being heard, and we applaud Congress for addressing these issues.”

“The extended visa expiration period for affluent Chinese tourists doing frequent luxury shopping tours to the U.S. is an excellent news for the U.S. luxury retail industry” said Pierre Gervois, an expert in marketing to wealthy Chinese outbound tourists and member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “That will mean more wealthy Chinese customers spending more money in U.S. luxury shopping malls and flagship stores, and creating more american jobs in the luxury retail industry”

U.S. VISA SYSTEM REFORM – The Act mirrors a number of recommendations put forth by the U.S. Travel Association in a May 2011 report on the U.S. visa system. That report identified visa wait times, visa validity periods and videoconferencing technology as keys to improving a system that cannot meet demand in emerging economies with growing markets of international travelers.

Initiatives championed by U.S. Travel and included in the consular affairs section of the bill include:
Visa Wait Time Reductions – To reduce the number of days applicants must wait before their visa application interview, the bill directs the Secretary of State to hire a sufficient number of consular officers, including limited non-career appointment (LNA) officers, in China, Brazil and India. These LNA officers will give the State Department hiring flexibility to meet increasing visa demand in the coming years.
Better Metrics and Long-Term Planning – Congress directs the Secretary of State to report on the steps it will take to reduce current visa processing wait times but also to submit a 5-year forecast of visa demand in Brazil, China and India. The plan should outline the number of consular officers necessary to meet the Department’s 30 day visa processing standard. Congress also directs the State Department to compare its forecast with the Commerce Department’s visitor projections in order to allow it to produce better long-term plans.

Extended Visa Expiration Period – A plan must be developed by the State Department to extend expiration periods for leisure or business visas that require a consular officer interview. The visa validity period for Chinese citizens is only one year, and U.S. Travel has recommended extending the visa validity period to five or 10 years, common with other countries, so business and leisure travelers do not have to undergo the visa renewal process annually and State can better meet demand of new applicants in China.
Secure Videoconferencing Technology – Congress has cleared the Secretary of State to develop and conduct a pilot program to conduct visa interviews for leisure and business visas using secure remote videoconferencing technology. With limited consular offices in emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India, the addition of remote secure videoconferencing would allow more citizens to apply for U.S. visas.
U.S. ENTRY & EXIT SYSTEM REFORM – The Act includes a number of significant improvements to the entry and exit process at U.S. air and land ports of entry.
Increased Staffing – The bill provides funding to hire an additional 300 new Customs and Border Protection Officers to improve processing of inbound travelers at land border crossings and international U.S. airports.

More Oversight of Operations – The bill requires CBP to report to the Congress on its long-term staffing plans and implementation of key entry reforms such as trusted traveler programs and elimination of unnecessary rescreening of international travelers and baggage.
Air Exit System – The bill provides $9.4 million to the development of a comprehensive plan for enhancements of a biographic air exit program to bolster security and allow for further expansion of the Visa Waiver Program.
DOMESTIC AVIATION FACILITATION REFORM – The Act makes a series of recommendations designed to improve the efficiency of traveler facilitation including:
Congressional Reports on Efficiency – TSA must submit to Congress reports on passenger and baggage screening efficiency and on how its workforce is being deployed at the nation’s airports to maintain average wait times below 10 minutes. As a recent U.S. Travel survey showed, an overwhelming majority of passengers are frustrated with screening checkpoints. The bill also encourages TSA to utilize privatized screening where more cost-effective.
Trusted Traveler – To help implement recommendations akin the U.S. Travel Blue Ribbon Panel on Aviation Security, the bill provides TSA $10M to implement risk-based screening and to expand known-traveler populations beyond the current PreCheck program.

In 2012, the U.S. Travel Association will pursue policies on behalf of the travel industry, many of which will create much-needed U.S. jobs and improve the economy. These include legislative vehicles for additional visa system reform, expanding the Visa Waiver Program, enhancing the entry process at ports of entry, and improving the efficiency of the U.S. air travel system.

Source: http://www.chinesetouristsinamerica.com

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From official travel agencies to independent travel blogs, how to influence the choice of leisure destination for the new generation of Chinese tourists.

One influential Chinese luxury travel blog about luxury travel to NYC

In the near future, the sight of groups of Chinese tourists following their tour guides around to the most beautiful tourist attractions could well become a thing of the past. Young and wealthy Chinese citizens fascinated by technology and with a desire to experience individual forms of travel are no longer taking the kind of trips once popular with many Chinese people. Chinese citizens’ travel habits are undergoing huge change. In order to keep up with the ever-increasing number of Chinese tourists the international travel industry must tailor its services to meet the demands of China’s new generation of tourists. Chinese speaking staff, typical Chinese dishes, and communicating via China’s popular social media channels could well be the recipes for success.

The economic boom is the driving force behind Chinese citizens’ desire to travel. Well-educated young professionals in particular are benefiting from the economic boom and can afford to take international trips which focus on experiencing something new. The demand is for high-quality service rather than low-cost group tours. China’s tourists want to experience individual travel. While visiting as many attractions as possible remains an important part of a tour, factors such as relaxation and entertainment have now moved further up the wish list. For many Chinese people shopping is still one of their favourite activities when travelling abroad. One indicator of this is the average amount of money they spend per visit, which has now reached double-digit figures.

In order for the travel industry to be acknowledged by Chinese tourists it must meet their specific requests and demands and respect their local culture and customs. Chinese speaking staff and audio guides in museums ensure that tourists feel welcome. For many travellers, additional comforts such as a kettle in one’s room for preparing snacks in between meals or Chinese dishes on the hotel restaurant menu are seen as respecting their culture.

Hotels and Tour operators should also take the needs and habits of Chinese people into account on their websites. Individual information pertaining to the market as well as links to Chinese search engines such as Baidu are what is required, instead of simply translating one’s own content. Websites should be hosted in China to enable a quick response to any censorship activities. Furthermore, they should not contain any links to websites which are banned in China, such as Facebook or YouTube. Chinese citizens go on different social networking sites, and this must be taken into account. For Chinese people, taking their specific cultural aspects into account is equivalent to affording someone respect, whereas for many Chinese tourists a website that ignores their needs is tantamount to a bad travel experience.

For China’s young generation of digital natives especially, social media, online bookings and mobile technologies are indispensable tools for planning and booking trips. In particular those who wish to travel abroad make use of online media to prepare in detail and to obtain information on their travel destination, and after a trip they share their experiences with other community members on the web. 92 per cent of China’s internet users go on social networking sites, around twice as many as in Europe or the US. According to  Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, the leading digital marketing agency focused on affluent & wealthy Chinese outbound tourists “ This new generation of Chinese tourists now chooses their destination, hotel, shopping activity through a network of informal travel blogs that give real insights about how Chinese tourists are really welcome all over the World. These independent blogs have much more influence than the big, official, travel website and hotel booking engines in China.

Chinese tourists remain eager to travel, and Chinese citizens are well on the way to soon becoming one of the world’s main source markets for tourism. According to estimates by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 66 million Chinese citizens travelled abroad in 2011, 15 per cent more than in 2010. Even if the majority of these day trips and those including overnight stays are to former colonies, i.e. Hong Kong and Macau, the number of trips taken by Chinese citizens to other countries in Asia and beyond is increasing rapidly.

Is Louis Vuitton too popular in China?

Being popular is proving to be a bad thing for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton in China. The brand sells so well there, which is its second-largest market in the world, that it is becoming too common.
Lately, instead of China’s wealthy, the middle class has been fueling sales at Louis Vuitton.
There are tens of millions of Chinese women who aspire to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag and millions are actually buying it.
Their desire to save up to buy a Louis Vuitton is becoming a double-edge sword for the brand. It means it will have years of growth there as incomes rise but its mass appeal also risks undermining its exclusive positioning.
The truth is that Chinese High Net Worth Individuals no longer wanted to buy Louis Vuitton. As a woman in Beijing, who is worth billions, said, “Louis Vuitton has become too ordinary. Everyone has it. You see it in every restaurant in Beijing. I prefer Chanel or Bottega Veneta now. They are more exclusive.”
Soaring wealth and obsession with luxury products provides huge opportunities for luxury retailers. The number of Chinese millionaires are estimated to more than double in the next five years. According to the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, a luxury travel club for Chinese billionaires, 200,000 Chinese travelers in 2010 had the ability to spend more than $150,000 in shopping abroad during their leisure trip.
These super rich Chinese consumers are causing challenges for Louis Vuitton and other historically dominant players like Zegna and Omega to maintain market share because the truly wealthy no longer want to buy the same fashion brands everyone else has.
Wealthy consumers looking to differentiate from the masses provide an opportunity for luxury brands like Chloe, Hermes, and Patek Philippe that target the ultra rich. They are moving more towards inconspicuous consumption in handbags and apparel while becoming more flamboyant in auto purchases and jewelry to show status, which is why sales there of Ferraris and Lamborghinis are soaring.
One wealthy man in Beijing told me, “Everyone can buy Louis Vuitton now, but not many can buy a Bentley.”
To stave off competition from very exclusive brands, and premium brands like Coach , Louis Vuitton is going to have to spend more on marketing to maintain its exclusivity. So far it has kept ahead of the curve, launching multi-story flagship stores in key shopping areas and marketing initiatives in conjunction with the Beijing National Museum.
Celebrity endorsers like Angelina Jolie also help add luster. These initiatives are key to maintaining status but will become increasingly costly, squeezing margins, as rent and labor costs go up.
Louis Vuitton’s parent group, LVMH , should consider more acquisitions at the higher end to capture wealthy consumers tiring of its flagship brand. It has bought stakes in Hermes but should try buying high-end brands outright to capture the truly wealthy segment.
China is the market to win for luxury brands. Despite the rocky global economy the demand for luxury products continues to soar. Brands need to understand that China’s ultra wealthy are becoming more sophisticated and not just looking for flashy logos and brands that everyone has. Brands also need to understand that buying abroad in New York City, London or Paris is a true sign of social status for Chinese consumers: Buying in Shanghai or in Beijing shopping malls is not “cool” anymore for Chinese: It just show that you can’t afford to travel.  At the uber rich level, there exists the opportunity to capture market share by differentiating the brand. Three years ago, everyone wanted Louis Vuitton. That is no longer the case.