The Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau rolled out the welcome mat last week for Active America China, the only event in North America 100 percent dedicated to building inbound Chinese tourism. The event allows U.S. travel sellers to meet key Chinese operators without expending the time and expense of travel to China.
Tell us about the show and how many people were in attendance?
Bloomington was excited to win the bid for the 2012 Active America China Tradeshow. China is the fastest growing inbound tourism market to North America. Tour operators who attended Active America China were from companies that were responsible for more than 40 percent of all tourism to North America in 2010. There were 140 total attendees, including both U.S. suppliers and buyers from China and those that work with inbound Chinese travelers (receptive operators), as well as media.
What was the biggest success of the event?
The largest success of Active America China was the ability to showcase the area and all that we have to offer. Certainly, the ability to connect other U.S. suppliers with the Chinese delegates and those who handle inbound groups from China (receptive operators) was important. But to get the top tour operators to experience Minnesota and build relationships was key.
What was the biggest challenge?
Language barrier was a challenge to work through, which we were able to manage quite well with 20 interpreters facilitating the greeting at the airport, hotels, Mall of America and through every component of the business event. They really like to work with Americans and want to learn so much about America.
What’s one or two important things tourism professionals should know about the Chinese tourism market?
Chinese travelers are coming to the U.S., so be prepared to welcome them! They spend more and stay longer than the average visitor staying at our hotels, eating at our restaurants, shopping in our malls, visiting our attractions, etc., so it is important that our tourism industry welcomes and embraces this shift. There are abundant opportunities to leverage and grow from this increase in Chinese visitors. Small changes made for guests do not go unnoticed: making sure the breakfast at a hotel is one that they will enjoy, bringing in Chinese translated collateral such as newspapers, translated website and welcome letters are also appreciated, and tea, the Chinese love their tea.
Why was this a great opportunity for Bloomington to host this event?
The best way to convince someone to visit is to show them the area first hand and offer an unforgettable experience. The conference was held at two of our hotels in Bloomington, so attendees were able to stay in the rooms, dine and attend meetings in their function space, and enjoy the hospitality and amenities of each property. The evening functions were held at off-site venues that showcased Bloomington and the Twin Cities area beautifully. Of course, Mall of America was the biggest draw, as shopping is the No. 1 thing to do in America for Chinese travelers. We are ready!
Attendees enjoyed some line dancing at Cowboy Jack's in Bloomington.
A Johnny Cash impersonator even made an appearance!
As part of a FAM tour, delegates visited the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Buyers and suppliers met for one-on-one appoinments, held at Sofitel.
A FAM tour isn't complete without a trip to Summit Brewery in St. Paul.
Learning about the University of Minnesota's China Center.
[Photos courtesy of the Bloomington CVB]
-- Amanda Fretheim Gates