Agents left the expo as certified Guizhou Province Specialists. // © 2017 ASTA
Feature image (above): ASTA partnered with Guiyang tourism officials for the 2017 Destination Expo in China. // © 2017 ASTA
In many cases, it was a week of firsts.
While the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is not new to showing off exciting destinations as part of its annual destination expos, it was the first time the organization touched down in China.
And the 2017 ASTA China Summit, held Nov. 8-12 in Guiyang, the capital of China’s Guizhou province, promised to be more than just a traditional conference. It was billed as a cultural-immersion experience for agents — and ASTA certainly delivered on that promise.
From the area’s gastronomy and natural beauty to cultural encounters with indigenous tribes, the 2017 ASTA China Summit gave heavy exposure to this otherwise off-the-beaten-path destination.
The four-day event brought together U.S. travel agents, tourism officials and Guizhou-based suppliers for a trade show, cultural entertainment, fam tours, culinary experiences and more. Additionally, each advisor who attended left as a certified Guizhou Province Specialist and gained a wealth of tools they can use to network directly with Chinese suppliers and tourism officials.
Guizhou province is one of the poorest in China. But like so many of China’s western regions, the destination — and its capital of Guiyang — is rapidly transforming into a tech hub. Last year, Guizhou was the third-fastest provincial economic growth in mainland China, and it earned the nickname “China’s Big Data Valley.”
Guiyang is also an integral part of the country’s economic transition and a key component in the country’s “Made in China” 2025 strategy. Because of its development, Guizhou’s government forecasts an 11 percent increase in investment this year, which is predicted to reach $3.34 billion, and job creation levels are estimated to hit 30,000 by the end of the year.
As the area’s technology and economic sectors begin to flourish, tourism is destined to follow. Luckily, the cultural, gastronomic and natural offerings within the province stands on their own.
It’s Time to Sell Guizhou
The scope and breadth of leisure travel opportunities in this lesser-known area are abundant. Here are some selling points for agents.
- Destinations in China account for 29 percent of the market share for tourism to Asia, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office.
- Thirty-eight percent of American travelers surveyed in ASTA’s “How America Travels” research study wish to “see natural sights” during a vacation; 34 percent want to “see historic sights.” Guizhou provides both; it is home to 44 of China’s ethnic minority groups and is a foodie’s paradise, mirroring the spicy cuisine of nearby Sichuan province. It also has geographical features such as Wangeng Forest and Huangguoshu Waterfall, one of the largest waterfalls in China.
- Getting to Guiyang is not as difficult as agents might think. The city, which is home to approximately 4 million people, is easily accessed from Guangzhou, one of China’s southern cities. Airlines that connect to Guiyang’s airport from the U.S. include China Eastern Airlines, Air China, China Southern Airlines, Korean Air, Hainan Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines. A new high-speed train also connects Guiyang to Guangzhou (a four-hour journey).