Moderated by Rick Badie
In August, Gov. Nathan Deal led a business, trade and tourism mission to Asia, accompanied by a delegation of state officials and business leaders. Today, an executive and state official who partook in the trip write about this region’s budding relationship with what’s considered the world’s fastest-growing economy.
China: Rich with opportunity
By William Pate
China’s economy continues to expand and provide significant opportunities for business sectors across the United States. One of the most rapidly growing segments is tourism from China to the U.S.
Last year, more than 67 million international visitors traveled to the U.S. China was the seventh-largest international inbound market. By 2015, China is expected to become the fourth-largest market. This rapid growth creates a significant opportunity for Atlanta.
In 2012, metro Atlanta welcomed 47,000 tourists from China. While China was our seventh-largest inbound market, it ranked second in visitor spending. The average Chinese tourist spends more than $7,000 per visit. Every additional 1,000 Chinese visitors represent more than $7 million in spending in our hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail shops. This makes China a large opportunity for building our hospitality portfolio.
I recently traveled with Gov. Nathan Deal on his trade mission to China to explore this growth opportunity. Tour operators in Shanghai, Qingdao and Jinan showed great enthusiasm for trips to Atlanta and Georgia. They said Chinese visitors are interested in cultural experiences, international brands and shopping. Atlanta is fortunate to have impressive offerings in these categories.
Most of our international travelers begin their exploration of Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Tour operators also shared Chinese interest in the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum to learn about how President Carter normalized relations with China. “Gone With the Wind” continues to be very popular in China; the Margaret Mitchell House is e included in any travel itinerary.
As for international brands, Atlanta has a strong core of offerings: CNN, World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium. Finally, as the shopping capital of the Southeast, Atlanta offers premium retail brands at Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza and the North Georgia Premium Outlets. The new Buckhead Atlanta complex will soon bring more luxury retail offerings for our domestic and international visitors.
When you consider Atlanta welcomed 42.3 million visitors last year, 47,000 Chinese visitors is a paltry sum. So the question becomes: How do we increase that number to 250,000? This increase would represent $1.5 billion in spending. The Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau secured agreements with two of the top five tour operators in Shanghai to carry trips including stops in Atlanta and other Georgia cities. This partnership, in conjunction with other opportunities that we expect to close in Qingdao and Jinan, will give us a good start in expanding our Chinese visitation.
The airport’s new international terminal, coupled with Delta’s expanding service to overseas cities, makes international tourism the next area of significant growth for Atlanta. China is rich with opportunity.
William Pate is president/CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Georgia, China’s trust grows
By Gary Black
For generations, Epcot Center visitors have marveled at the film, “Reflections on China.” Last month, I was honored to join Gov. Nathan Deal for the trade mission to China and now offer reflections on this land of opportunity for Georgia’s food and fiber industry.
In America, any growth in disposable income results in the purchase of a larger television, a nicer condo rental or an authentic pair of Tory Burch flats. The Chinese middle-class is focused on food. They expect the marketplace to provide more choices and higher quality for their children.
Chinese consumers trust U.S. brands. As disposable income rises in China, demand for bulk commodities and value-added foods produced by Georgians will soar.
For example, Georgia farmers lead the nation in pecan production. Recent efforts to acquaint the Chinese with our beloved tree nut have resulted in China purchasing 20 to 40 percent of our yearly production.
As with any new trading relationship, we have experienced quality disputes. We addressed these concerns with brokers and government officials during the mission and reinforced our inspection standards. I expect a robust future. Georgia producers are adding well more than 20,000 acres of trees. Pecan tree nurseries across the country have order backlogs until 2016. This spells positive economic activity for Georgia’s economy.
In 2012, Georgia farmers produced more than 1.7 million 1,700,000 tons of peanuts, a record. This past winter, Chinese brokers made purchases that reduced inventories and uplifted the 2013 market season. We were able to thank some brokers face-to-face for their business and assure them of our ability to meet future expectations.
The chicken paw (foot) is a Chinese menu favorite. Last year, Georgia poultry companies exported $25.1 million of them to China. I do not believe consumption in Georgia will ever be a threat to our ability to meet the demand of our Chinese friends. Chinese consumers will want more Georgia chickens from the ground up.
We tasted Australian beef during banquets in Shanghai, Qingdao and Jinan. I would relish the opportunity to join my fellow cattlemen to compete in this market. Hurdles exist between the U.S. and China on beef products. These hurdles should be removed. Until then, we will explore ideas to penetrate the market with InterContinental Hotels, headquartered in Georgia, and others.
Entry to any foreign food market is tricky. Food service and business convention menus featuring the “Georgia Grown” brand could be the key to developing demand for meat and other products.
Trade missions provide a mechanism for leaders of business, government and academia to build relationships. Any successful relationship demands a level of trust. Private-sector trust between Georgia and China is growing. I remain committed to fostering the relationships with the Chinese consumer necessary to expand market opportunities for our farm and forestry-related businesses.
Gary Black is the Georgia agriculture commissioner.