New Member Spotlight: Kate Chang of LA Tourism

Regional Director of China for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board

kate-chang-la-tourism.jpg
Kate Chang
Hometown: Guilin
Current role: Regional Director of China for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board  

Tell us about your career path and what you like about the tourism industry.

I started in the hotel business at university, where my major was tourism and hotel management. I was so lucky to be among the first group of Chinese students that graduated from (the newly opened) tourism schools.

My first job was at the Grand Hotel Beijing, a joint venture in the center of Beijing overlooking the Forbidden City. That was along time ago, in 1985. At that time, China had just started opening up, and there were not so many hotels. The owner of the hotel was a tycoon from Hong Kong, Mr. Henry Fok. (Working for the Grand Hotel Beijing,) I got the opportunity to be trained in Singapore and to do several short-term trainings overseas. My whole life I've been really grateful for this.

In 1998, I got the opportunity to work in Sydney for almost five years for the China National Tourism Administration Sydney office as the Assistant Director, promoting China to Australians and Kiwis. After that, I joined the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), where I started their first China office. PATA is a nonprofit membership organization focused on travel and tourism in Asia. I worked there for eight-and-a-half years. Since then, I've been Regional Director of China for LA Tourism for more than two years now.

One of the reasons I've always been in the hotel and tourism business is that it's people-to-people work, with lots of networking. I enjoy working with people, and I try my best to help people.

How's business?

This year we're celebrating our 10-year anniversary in China. Our first office was in Beijing, and now we have also have offices in Shanghai, and one in Guangzhou established last year. China is now in the most important source market for visitors to LA.

Thanks to the development of Chinese outbound travel, there have been significant increases in Chinese visitors to LA. Last year it was 779,000, a 13 percent increase. For the last 10 years, growth has been over 500 percent.

What is the most important marketing strategy? Our answer would be, “China, China, China.” We're looking at how to expand more into rest of the China market, but we will have to look at two dimensions: where is the US consulate general, and where are the airline connections. At the moment, we have most first-tier level cities but now we're looking at penetrating the secondary cities. Last year, a new air service on China Eastern Airlines started going from Nanjing to LA. Also at the beginning of this year, another new service on Hainan Airlines began going from Changsha to LAX. Delta has just announced another new service from Beijing to LAX this year.

We are a data-driven organization. Everything we do needs to be based on the outcomes of the research. From data, we can see that Chengdu is one of the biggest source markets that has no nonstop service yet. We are really trying to encourage airlines to think about the potential of this market. We have made some progress, and just learned that Sichuan Airlines has locked into an application with CAAC to have a new service between Chengdu and LA. It will ideally start in June, just in time for student vacations.

What are the challenges you’re currently facing in business?

Awareness in China is really good, but the challenge is the competition. It's getting more severe because every destination tries its best to get a share of the market. What we are trying to do is get more visitors to select LA as their first stop.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I'm a good singer!

What's your favorite destination for travel?

LA! What else can I say? Every time you can find something different. It's so spread out, so many interesting things you can touch and feel. For instance I just came back from LA, and this time I went to a very niche place called The Bunny Museum. It's a collection of rabbit-themed items put together by a couple because rabbits are part of their love story. I am the year of the rabbit so I wanted to see it.

What do you hope to get out of your AmCham China membership?

LA Tourism is an American company. AmCham China is a platform where we can explore more opportunities to promote LA in conjunction with partners.