The Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau has brokered a deal establishing itself in one of the world’s fastest growing and farthest markets — nearly 8,000 miles away by flight, partially over the Arctic — in Shanghai.
“There’s so much potential there,” said Ron Kuhlman, CVB vice president of tourism sales and marketing. “This is the next logical step.”
The city’s international tourism efforts already include one-person offices in Brussels and Montreal, at annual costs of $80,000 and $85,000 respectively. The budget for China is $50,000, putting the CVB’s international representation budget at $215,000.
Under the new deal, Shanghai-based firm BrandStory will market Virginia Beach to Chinese tourists, who Kuhlman said visit the region of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. more frequently than any others.
About 2.2 million Chinese visited the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. That number is expected to double before the decade is over, making China the fastest growing origin country for overseas visitors.
It also makes it a priority for tourism efforts in Hampton Roads, an area that captured 26 percent of the state’s total overseas visitors, Kuhlman said.
He was unable to say what percentage of Chinese tourists to the United States in 2014 visited Virginia Beach– he planned to meet with a researcher Thursday night find out — but said “anecdotally” hotels said they had seen more than ever.
The city also has about 567,000 followers on Weibo — a Chinese social media network similar to Twitter — and is continuing to garner more, he said.
The CVB first sought to tap the Chinese market four years ago when Kuhlman visited on an exploratory trip. The next year, in 2012, he made his first sales trip there, he said.
He’s making another trip there this weekend, but he said the partnership with BrandStory will allow the city to market itself in more culturally effective ways and for longer.
“There’s only so much I could do on one or two trips a year,” he said.
The CVB has also launched a Chinese version of its website and put itself on itineraries that are given to Chinese people who purchase plane tickets to America.