by Xinhua Writer Gao Shan
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Rambling in the beautiful campus of the University of Southern California (USC) with family members, Ding Hong, a Chinese tourist from east China was fascinated by picturesque views of Romanesque buildings, exquisite sculptures and murals.
Finally, he stopped in front of the bronze statue of the Trojan Shrine, one of the most recognizable figures of school pride at the USC, and coaxed his 6-year-old son to take a photo to mark the occasion.
"Study hard and you will get a chance to study here when you grow up," he told the boy.
USC's campuses, located in the heart of Los Angeles, welcome thousands of visitors each year.
Ding, a professional with a real estate company in Jiangsu Province, was among the increasing number of Chinese tourists who appeared on the USC campus.
The USC and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are popular stops for Chinese tourists, especially for those who are seeking a college education for their children in the United States.
"We enjoyed the beauty of the campus and I hope my son can feel the different cultural atmosphere here," Ding told Xinhua.
"We've been to some beautiful university campuses in China, but this is the first time for us to visit an American university. There are some differences obviously. for example, it's a university without walls and we can meet students from all over the world," said Ding's 70-year-old father.
As Chinese tourists are taking more outbound trips now than ever before, Ding's family and other Chinese tourists are welcomed by Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board which initiated a "Nihao China" program with more than 150 member businesses in three years, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, the Getty Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County among other landmark tourist attractions and famous hotels, restaurants and service providers. "Nihao" means "hello" in Chinese. The program is aiming to attract more Chinese tourists and serve them better.
"Los Angeles is very proud to be the first U.S. city to welcome one million Chinese visitors. This is a huge milestone for us. We are continuing to invest in the market," said Kathy Smits, vice president of international tourism for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
"If you looked at the Chinese visitors over the past ten years, at first we were seeing lots of groups from China. Now, we are seeing a shift. More and more either individual travelers or those who are purchasing perhaps airline (tickets) and hotel together and then figure out the rest of their experience," Smits told Xinhua in an interview Thursday at annual "Nihao China" tradeshow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood.
"We are seeing more Chinese self-drive tourists. So they may come to Los Angeles interested in driving off the coast or they may want to experience the sports, or they may still want to shop or to discover the wonderful restaurants here," she added.
China was the second largest international market for LA, only behind Mexico. China accounted for 75 percent of the destination's overall growth of international tourism and the number of Chinese visitors is projected to climb rapidly in coming years.
Some 42 percent of Chinese travelers visit cultural institutions because history, heritage and iconic masterpieces appeal to them very much, according to the data of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
"China is a strategic market for us," said Gary Soloff, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood's director of marketing, at the "Nihao China" tradeshow, "We are working on building a mandarin tour."
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is looking for mandarin tour guides and plan to provide mandarin tours every single day for Chinese tourists from the next year. Tourists can get a behind-the-scenes look at TV and movie sets on a Warner Brothers studio tour. They can see backlots and sound stages from "Friends," "Batman," "The Big Bang Theory," and more.
"We've seen lots of interests from Chinese guests to actually see the Big Bang Theory set," Soloff added.
"Chinese visitors are learning more and more about Los Angeles. If you look at all the changes that happened in Los Angeles, we have new hotels, we have new museums, like Lucas Museum coming to LA. Many years from now, we have 2028 Olympic Games coming, that will continue to have excitement as you have winter Olympic Games coming up in China. We expected that the interests in LA is just going to grow and grow," Patti MacJennett, Senior Vice President of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, told Xinhua in a recent interview.