PIERRE, S.D. (KELO AM) – The South Dakota Department of Tourism hosted its first-ever Chinese familiarization tour, effectively showcasing the state to one of the fastest growing segments of the foreign visitor industry.
According to the World Tourism Organization, Chinese visitors are now the top source of tourism spending in the world. Chinese travelers spent a record $102 billion on international tourism in 2012, a 40 percent increase from 2011. Expenditures by Chinese travelers helped contribute to the record-setting $168.1 billion spent by foreign visitors to the U.S in 2012. China’s growing economy and its exploding middle class have resulted in more Chinese citizens spending money on international travel.
“The United States and South Dakota, in particular, continue to see increased numbers of international visitors, many of whom are already seeing some of our marketing,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary, South Dakota Department of Tourism. “With the continuous growth in international travel, this tour gave us the opportunity to reach out to China as a new market, and welcome those visitors to our state.”
Participants in the Department of Tourism’s Chinese familiarization tour visited Rapid City, Badlands National Park, Sturgis, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park. The tour was held June 13-17 with 12 Chinese group tour operators attending.
“We had an awesome time on our familiarization tour with this group,” said Maureen Droz, International and Domestic Trade Sales Manager, South Dakota Department of Tourism. “They absolutely loved our national memorials, national and state parks, wide open spaces and rich, Western and American Indian heritage. We are already booking trips from Chinese tour operators as a result of the tour.”