Chinese tourists have Southern Oregon on radar
- By LEE JUILLERAT For the Herald and News
Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman, from left, U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, Teresa Mitchell O’Neill and Carolyn Hill in China for the joint park signing ceremonies.
- Gerry Obrien
Mount Wuyi is in the Wuyishan National Scenic Area; a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southeast China’s Fujian province.
- Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman, Carolyn Hill and Tang Jian Ming, Mount Wuyi director, who attended the joint park signing ceremonies in China recently.
Southern Oregon needs to get ready for increased numbers of Chinese tourists.
That’s the advice from Carolyn Hill, Travel Southern Oregon’s executive director who was among the Oregon delegation that visited China last month to sign a Sister Park agreement between Crater Lake National Park and the Mount Wuyi World Heritage Cultural Park.
“The economic and cultural advantages of this relationship are immeasurable,” said Hill, who is also the Crater Lake National Park Trust’s executive director. “We have an opportunity to build a bridge that allows scientists, students, visitors and nations to learn and share together.”
Hill was a member of delegation led by Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman, who signed the actual agreement during ceremonies near Mount Wuyi. The Wuyishan National Scenic Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southeast China’s Fujian province.
UNESCO says the dramatic gorges formed by the Nine-Bend River are of “exceptional scenic quality.” In addition, many temples and monasteries along the river, many now in ruins, provided the setting for the development and spread of neo-Confucianism.
“Like Crater Lake, it is a place of beauty and inspiration, a gift of Mother Nature,” Hill, who has made two visits to Wuyi, said of the Fujian region.
“They’re both gifts of Mother Nature. This new official sister park relationship is building a bridge over which the world’s most talented thinkers, scientists, artists, scholars and others may meet to study, exchange ideas and work together.”
Hill said she’s excited about the partnership for several reasons.
“The marketer in me is thrilled at filling thousands of motels in Southern Oregon,” she said, noting China has quickly become the country that sends the most visitors to Oregon.
As of the third-quarter in 2015, Oregon had at least 107,000 Chinese visitors, a 25 percent increase over the same time period in 2014. Overall, Crater Lake had 614,712 visits in 2015, its highest count in the last 25 years and a 14.7 percent increase from 2014.
Wuyishan National Scenic Area receives a staggering 10.5 million visitors annually.
But Hill believes “the beating heart” of the agreement is “how can we preserve these amazing parks. The Fujian province is kind of the Oregon of China. It has lush beautiful forests, miles of coast, starry nights, and it has an ecological value system. These are exactly the kind of visitors we want to come to Oregon.”
To prepare for the expected influx, Hill said lodgings, restaurants and other businesses need to be “China ready” by providing signage and other information in Mandarin.
“We want those visuals when they get here, signs that say ‘Welcome to Southern Oregon,’ ‘Welcome to Crater Lake.’”
Preparing for the Chinese
She believes businesses need to prepare by, for example, providing quality team catering to Chinese food preferences and offering cultural programs.
Echoing her thoughts is Jim Chadderdon, Discover Klamath Tourism director.
“Millions of affluent Chinese travelers will now become aware of the Crater Lake and the Klamath region. This has the potential for substantial economic impact to local hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, attractions and events,” he said. “We’re going to need more motels.”
He said he and other Discover Klamath staff have been attending conventions in part to search for bus companies that will bring visitors to the Klamath Basin.
He believes overnight stays will increase because Klamath Falls is “bookended by Crater Lake and Lava Beds” National Monument along with wildlife refuges, museums and other attractions.
“We look forward to working with groups both inside Klamath and outside to generate interest in visiting our area, as well as helping to facilitate the education, training, and other efforts required of local businesses to become ‘China-ready.’ “
“Everyone in the state should look at this as something we can showcase,” Hill insists, noting the signing ceremony and follow-up convention in Beijing was news throughout China. “We were able to spread the word about Crater Lake and Southern Oregon at an incredibly important convention.”
She said the personal pleasure at seeing the agreement between the two parks signed, a process that began several years and was nearly abandoned, has been reflected in her face, explaining, “I’ve been smiling so much my face hurt. And I still can’t stop smiling.”
- “Like Crater Lake, it is a place of beauty and inspiration, a gift of Mother Nature.”
Travel Southern Oregon’s executive director