Tahoe readies for increased Chinese tourism | nnbw.com

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Tahoe readies for increased Chinese tourism

Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison speaks at the 2016 Global Tourism Summit in Reno, Nev., which was focused on Chinese tourism.

Lake Tahoe hotel and resort properties may soon be adding new luxuries to their rooms to accommodate a rising number of Chinese guests.

Travel industry pros in California and Nevada have been working to prepare resort properties and other tourism-dependent businesses near Lake Tahoe for an increase in Chinese visitors.

"When the U.S. and China agreed to do a 10-year visa, and they added an expedited visa center, it really opened up the floodgates for Chinese visitors," said Travel Nevada Chief Communications Officer Bethany Drysdale.

The 10-year visas were introduced in 2014. Prior to that, they were difficult for Chinese travelers to obtain and only good for one year.

"It's been several years since we had the expedited visa, and now we're seeing repeat visitors," Drysdale said. "Those that have been to Las Vegas want to see what else is out there — that's what we're seeing right now in Northern Nevada."

Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and a group of tourism industry professionals recently returned from a 10-day trade mission in China, where they promoted travel to Nevada.

"Nevada long has recognized the importance of the China market, and continues to build relationships that will benefit the Chinese traveler and the state of Nevada," Lt. Gov. Hutchison said in a statement.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, China was the third largest inbound travel market in 2015, and is expected to be the largest by 2021. The organization also reported that in 2015, Chinese visitors spent more than visitors from any other country.

"With the (Chinese) middle class growing, we've seen an influx of flights coming into Los Angeles and San Francisco," said North Lake Tahoe Resort Association Tourism Director JT Thompson. "The capacity has grown substantially over the last 2 years."

The reason Chinese visitors are drawn to Lake Tahoe, Thompson said, is to enjoy nature and clean air.

"They want to get to the gateway cities, they want to go shopping and all that," he said, "but they also want to experience nature."

In December, the North Lake Tahoe Resort association helped provide a Global China Ready seminar to teach local businesses and employees how to best accommodate Chinese visitors.

"The cultural differences between the Chinese and the western travelers are significant," Thompson said.

For example, Thompson said that the greetings used in Chinese culture tend to be more formal. He also said that the eating customs were much different.

"They like to spend time at a property that understands their culture as well," he said.

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.