A file photo taken on April 15, 2016 shows two Chinese reading rare books at Argosy Book Store which is famous for its enormous array of antiquarian and out-of-print volumes in New York City, the United States. (Xinhua/Yuan Yue)
by Xinhua Writers Sun Oumeng, Yuan Yue
NEW YORK, July 18 (Xinhua) -- As larger numbers of Chinese tourists are coming to the United States with more individualized travel plans, more are turning their eyes to cultural and art attractions, rather than a shopping spree.
"We have seen the rise of independent Chinese tourists for a while, and they have showed increasing interest in culture and arts," Lin Xiaowen, a tour guide with the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
There used to be a time when the luxury stores on the Fifth Avenue of New York City (NYC) were frequented by Chinese consumers. But now, they have turned to the attractions other than gilt and luxury.
"In recent years, the number of Chinese tourists (to the Met) is keeping rising. In 2009, it was only about 50,000 (annually), but since 2014, the number has already over 200,000," said Lin, "So, Chinese visitors have become the largest group of foreign visitors in Met since then."
In fiscal year of 2015, the number of visitors to this iconic museum in the United States has reached 6.3 million, which has been attributed in a large part to Chinese elements and tourists. The Met is one of the world's largest museums with over two million pieces of artwork.
Responding to the sharp rise of Chinese visitors, the museum made efforts to cater to the Chinese, including audio tours and maps in Mandarin, opening a Chinese Weibo account, and even acceptance of UnionPay.
"Now, the museum sets three times a week mandarin highlight tour to visitors," Lin added.
It has been reported that the Mandarin version of the Met's guidebook sells better than any other foreign-language editions.
Against the impression that Chinese tourists are mainly "shoppers", scenic spots with civic interest or stunning scenery is taking more of their travelling routes.
"The total amount of sales by Chinese shoppers has dropped by almost one third in the first quarter of 2016," said Rich Sun, COO and Board Secretary of L&L Tour, one of the largest Chinese travel agency in New York.
Chinese tourists now choose to spend more time in the spots like Washington Square, enjoying some coffee, or take a walk around famous campus, like Columbia University, New York University, etc..
Some Chinese visitors take a special interest in exploring Ivy League universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University in Boston, Princeton University in New Jersey and Yale University in Connecticut.
"They are more interested in outdoor activities, such as adventures. They are more interested in the natural scenes, like the national parks. They are more interested in the secondary to tertiary cities of United States, not only New York, not only Los Angeles or Las Vegas," Sun told Xinhua, "They want to explore more of American culture."
"And also, another trend from the Chinese tourists coming to the U.S. is that they are more interested in staying here longer to have an exploration of that local community in depth, instead of just superficial stay for one night or for a couple of days," added Sun.
2016 marks the U.S.-China Tourism Year. Governments from both sides have launched a series of measures to boost tourism. Now, China is the fourth-largest international source of visitors to the New York City, after the Great Britain, Canada, and Brazil.
The Big Apple is expecting 921,000 tourists from China 2016, up 8 percent from the preliminary estimate in 2015, according to the prediction made by NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing, tourism and partnership organization.