Chinese tourism in Los Angeles is booming, and now Ontario wants a piece of the action.
When you think of the top destinations in Southern California, the Inland Empire might not be top of mind, but it should, says Sue Oxarart, spokeswoman for the Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"We’re really letting people know how much there is to do here," said Oxarart. "We’re located in the center of Southern California. We’re at the apex of three major freeways.”
More tourists come to Southern California from China than from any other country, according to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The number of Chinese tourists nearly quadrupled in recent years, from 158,000 tourists in 2009 to 570,000 in 2013, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.
Ontario is already seeing some success; last year, a Chinese tour operator bought 20,000 rooms in the city, which the visitor’s bureau hopes is just the start of a wave of bookings to fill Ontario's 6,000 hotel rooms.
The bureau hosted a presentation Thursday for 50 local hotel and tourism workers to hear from Ted Bravos, CEO and co-founder of International Tour Management Institute, who recently returned from meeting with tourism officials in Beijing.
“Out here in Ontario, you’ve got the backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains and Lake Arrowhead," said Bravos. "It looks like the backdrop of a Hollywood movie. I’m serious.”
That's in contrast to Los Angeles, which Bravos says Chinese visitors can find expensive, dangerous, and even too polluted.
Another draw for Chinese tourists in Ontario is its proximity to malls like Ontario Mills, which added a language assistance program and provides maps in various languages to better market itself to Chinese visitors.
Chinese visitors spend an average of $6,000 per visit, the highest of any nationality, according to the U.S. Travel Association.