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Virginia launches website to boost Chinese tourism

New digital gateway aims to expand state ties with China's tourism industry

With the number of Chinese tourists visiting Virginia booming in recent years, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced plans to add a new Chinese-language landing webpage to the state’s tourism website. The page will join 15 other language-based landing pages on the site.

As part of the initiative to capitalize on the Chinese tourism market, Virginia has also partnered with full-time marketing representation firm BrandStory, which will work to build the state’s brand in China. The Virginia Tourism Corporation has also developed ad-hoc marketing initiatives to reach out to potential clients and develop strong relationships with airlines. Non-stop service is now offered from Beijing to Washington Dulles International Airport seven days a week through United Airlines and four days a week through Air China.

Heidi Johannesen, director of international marketing at the Virginia Tourism Corporation, said Chinese tourism in Virginia represents an interest in the original, bona fide American experience.

“It’s certainly [true] the Chinese travelers coming to the United States want to see all the big cities and big-name destinations,” Johannesen said. “But those travelers who have already done that, they’re looking for a new experience. They want the ‘true authentic American experience.’”

Johannesen said Chinese tourists are also likely to be drawn to the history and culture of the University and Charlottesville area.

“The tie with Thomas Jefferson, U.Va., the Rotunda, being located in Charlottesville — there’s this huge draw,” she said.

Johannesen said the launch of the new digital gateway is just the start of what she believes will be a continued, effective relationship between China and Virginia tourism bureaus.

“With the governor having just come back from his mission, he [specifically] committed to making this market a top priority and the Chinese are very receptive to that,” she said.

According to a recent press release, domestic and international travelers spent a combined $21.5 billion on the state’s tourism industry in 2013, supporting 213,000 jobs and providing more than $1.42 billion dollars in state and local taxes.