The heat is rising and we all know what that means for the North Country — tourists, seasonal residents and outdoor enthusiasts.
Lots of them.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo knows this. He has a soft spot for the North Country and intrinsically understands the magnetic draw of these ancient and mysterious hills.
Over the weekend, he traveled to Watkins Glen to officially kick off the season.
The tourism figures he boasted are impressive: The biz generated direct spending of $59.2 billion in 2013 and produced an estimated $7.5 billion in state and local taxes.
The number of visitors to New York is estimated to have increased by 8.8 million and were projected to finish at 218.8 million visitors by the end of 2013 (the final numbers aren’t in yet). As the fourth largest employment sector in the state, the industry generated more than $17.96 billion in wages.
Not bad. We’d like to augment them with some of our own.
Fact: Mainland Chinese travelers spent $102 billion on international tourism in 2012, 40 percent more than they spent in 2011.
Neat: By 2016, the number of Mainland Chinese tourists visiting the United States is estimated to grow by 232 percent, said the US Department of Commerce.
Wow: China was the sixth-largest spending nationality in the US in 2012, spending $9.2 billion — compared to $7.7 billion in 2011 — making it the fastest growing market for American tourism in 2012.
Impressive: Tourists from the self-described Middle Kingdom outspent leading spenders Germany in 2012, dropping a total of $102 billion on overseas trips (compared to $84 billion by the Germans).
Loaded: Chinese tourists spend about $6,000 per trip to the US, more than visitors from any other country. Because their expenditures are technically exports, the US ran a $4.4 billion surplus in travel and tourism with China in 2011, up from a $687 million deficit in 2006.
Whoa: In 2013, China’s State Council — that’s the equivalent of our presidential cabinet — announced a plan to blast outbound tourism even further into the stratosphere. The seven-year plan is a roadmap for restructuring the current paid leave system across Mainland China with an aim to encourage governmental agencies, social organizations, enterprises and public institutions to promote the use of mandated leave days, a development that has the potential to blow the top off of the international tourism market.
We could go on and on. But the numbers illustrate that the Mainland Chinese are coming, they’re eager, excited, enthusiastic and want to drop their cash.
Now that New York has realized the value of the North Country, it’s time to look east and think big — like 1.355 billion big.
American cities like Seattle, Honolulu, New York and Los Angeles understand this and have started opening offices in major Mainland Chinese megalopolis’ like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
We think Lake Placid should be the next in line, serving as the nerve center for a constellation of North Country cities and destinations.
And why not?
Olympic connection. China hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a point of profound national pride that has yet to subside. Beijing and Lake Placid’s narratives blend together like, er, ying and yang — cities that emerged from backwater status to pull off some of the most mesmerizing athletic events in human history — and we’d like to think a eternal spirit of cooperation can be eventually be forged.
Outdoor activities. It might be easy to overlook, but our brutal terrain is our top asset, especially during the winter. Adventuring and endurance sports have become popular activities for Mainland China’s young explorers, those in their twenties and thirties who travel independently, and the natural beauty of the Adirondack Park seems like a no-brainer considering much of the world’s most densely populated country is choking under a veil of unrelenting pollution and profound environmental degradation.
Peace of mind. Chinese culture, which stretches back over 4,000 years, has always placed a premium on holistic medical practices that seek to balance and neutralize discord within the body, a balance that is becoming increasingly desired as the slowburning tensions within the country escalate. The North Country’s growing network of acupuncture, spa treatments, organic farming and community supported agriculture is like catnip to the increasingly health conscious Chinese and shouldn’t be overlooked.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the official slogan was ubiquitous: Beijing huangying ni. That means “Beijing welcomes you.”
We suggest state officials add the following phrase to their talking points: Beifeng guojia huangying.
“The North Country welcomes you.”