Chinese tourism and investment in Southern California surges

Chinese tourists board a bus with bags and suitcases of merchandise after shopping at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon in March 2013. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Chinese tourists board a bus with bags and suitcases of merchandise after shopping at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon in March 2013. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

From the LA Times, by Tiffany Hsu, June 6, 2014:

The number of Chinese travelers passing through the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel has swelled 15% since the property was purchased in November by a Chinese real estate developer.

The new owner, a subsidiary of Shenzen Hazens Real Estate Group, has put up billboards in China touting the 802-room hotel near the main entrance of the Los Angeles International Airport. The $96-million deal was the company's first in the U.S.

"Every time I walk in the lobby, it's full of Chinese people," said Darryl Stewart, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. "That didn't use to be the case."

It's just one example of a surge in Chinese tourism and investment in Southern California. Tourism from China into Los Angeles nearly quadrupled last year to 570,000 visitors, up from 158,000 in 2009, according to a new report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The LAEDC thinks the county could see as many as 2 million Chinese tourists annually by 2020.

A few years ago, China wasn't among the 10 largest sources of overseas travelers into the Southland; now it's the top generator. Nearly half of all Chinese journeying to the U.S. stop in California; nearly three-quarters of those come to Los Angeles.

The influx represents more than just vacation travel. Many of the visitors are here scoping out purchases of homes, businesses and other investments.

The LAEDC report sees more opportunities for Chinese investment in the Southland, especially in industries such as real estate, green technology and e-commerce. Wealthy Chinese investors increasingly are looking to diversify their holdings, said Graham O'Kelly, a family wealth director with Morgan Stanley.

"With Los Angeles being a hub city, it makes sense to put money there," he said. "Chinese have business there, kids who go to school there, plus it's a great place for them to vacation."

Areas such as the San Gabriel Valley are seeing a surge in real estate ventures catering to Chinese buyers, along with more tourist spending on hotels and authentic Chinese food.

Link to full article:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-chinese-tourism-economy-20140606-story.html