As Chinese travelers begin to explore lesser-known destinations outside America’s gateway cities, some small but strategic destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are beginning to take a leadership role in training their partners on the needs of these travelers.

Chinese tourists aren’t interested in only going to big cities, and smaller American destinations outside gateway cities can benefit—if they’re prepared

Most recently, the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, together with I Love NY state tourism, hosted a China Readiness workshop for approximately 50 representatives and owners of local businesses to help them better understand the Chinese traveler and equip them with the basics on ways to prepare and cater to this market.

The workshop delivered overviews and introductions to Chinese customs and culture, popular social media platforms such as WeChat and how to use them effectively in marketing to the Chinese traveler, understanding the domestic market vs Chinese market, how to work with receptive tour operators, and more.

“This was an introduction for our local businesses to really embrace this change and move our region into the spotlight as we work in tandem with our state tourism partner, nearby destinations, and attractions to present our region to Chinese travelers,” said Roberta Lockwood, President and CEO of the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association.

To succeed with the growing number of Chinese tourists, local businesses, even in small American towns, will have to start thinking globally

“The session received tremendous enthusiasm from our partners and we are now working on the next steps which includes developing a toolkit with practical steps on welcoming Chinese travelers. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for partners to embrace this change. At the foresight, utilizing the good work the state has done in this market, we also work diligently with other nearby destinations and attractions to encourage tour operators to combine what we have on their itineraries. One of the most recent collaborations was a post-IPW familiarization tour put on by the Sullivan Catskills and the Adirondacks, and in collaboration with I Love NY, attended by seven Chinese tour operators so they can immerse themselves in the wonderful attractions we offer.”

Recognizing New York City as one of the gateway cities to the East Coast and its ability to lure Chinese visitors, Sullivan Catskills positions itself as an emerging destination undergoing a revival that is a country getaway 90 minutes from New York City offering outdoor activities, farm experiences, and more.

In 2017, New York City welcomed 1.03 million Chinese visitors and NYC & Company, the destination marketing organization for New York City, forecasts steady growth to 1.11 million in 2018—something surrounding destinations are hoping to benefit from.

This is an example of how important it is for DMOs to take a leadership role in training its partners as it can be overwhelming and intimidating for some businesses that do not know where to begin in this complex learning process. These programs are beneficial for the entire hospitality community and showcase how smaller DMOs and their partners can work hand-in-hand in making the Chinese traveler feel comfortable and welcomed. Satisfied visitors encourage long-term growth and such steps may represent the best way to improve the popularity of destinations among Chinese tourists.