For a long time, China was a closed country. It was a rarity when any tourist visited China and an even bigger rarity when Chinese citizens left the country. But as Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a changin’.”

China is reported to be tourisms’ number one emerging market. The Chinese in the near future will have disposable income and the time to travel. The desire to see America is sweeping China at a rapid rate. Chinese citizens share dreams of seeing the Atlantic Ocean and delving deep into the American culture that has for so long, been worlds away. Chinese visitors say they want to experience the big tourism destinations- including New York City and Washington D.C.

They will also seek architecture, shopping, and beautiful beaches. And therein lies a fantastic opportunity for South County, Rhode Island. Close to New York, with 100 miles of beautiful coastal beaches, sensational accommodations- including Westerly’s five star Ocean House, and plenty of activities for families, South County is naturally positioned as a vacation destination for this new group of visitors.

A recent trip to China was offered through the East Greenwich (RI) Chamber of Commerce. South County Tourism Council President Myrna George took advantage of the opportunity.

She noted that U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has submitted the following legislation: Creating five-year multiple-entry visas for Chinese nationals, who currently must apply for new U.S. visas annually, as opposed to travelers from other countries who can receive up to 10-year, multiple entry visas. The University of Rhode Island is exploring partnerships with this emerging market as well.

“When I traveled to China I saw a country of contrasts,” George said. “From the Temple of Heaven, built in 1420 A.D., where the emperors prayed to the heavens for a good harvest, to young Chinese citizens who embraced Western status symbols such as an Audi with emblazoned four circles and craved a new favorite food- Kentucky Fried Chicken. China is a country on the move- an architect's dream come true - building everywhere. There is much ‘NEW’ money in China and much curiosity about our culture.”

During her trip, George met with Ke Zhi Hao the Vice General Manager of China Comfort Suzhou International Travel Company. He personally accompanies 147 tourists each year on visits to the United States. They spend approximately $7,000 each. That’s over a million dollars just from Mr. Hao’s travel company. The visitors not only want to see our cities, and the Atlantic Ocean, but they also want to experience the typical American culture. This is where South County, Rhode Island comes in.

“We are exploring the best ways to cultivate this growing new visitor,” George noted. “We have invited Mr. Hao and a contingent of his colleagues and fellow travelers to tour South County. The South County Tourism Council is preparing a proposal for translation of our brochures, travel guides, and other various travel information into Chinese. We are looking at options for placing advertisements in Chinese newspapers and travel magazines.”

With clean, breathtakingly beautiful beaches, South County serves as a perfect destination for Chinese visitors to experience American culture: swimming in the ocean, walking the shore and enjoying the nightlife all in one tranquil and relaxing setting.

“Building our tourism trade isn’t just about those who are coming today, but also about looking forward to those who will be seeking vacation destinations over the next five or even 10 years.” George explained. “The two million Chinese tourists expected to visit the U.S. over the next five years will spend close to $14 billion. The South County Tourism Council is getting ready to welcome them with open arms.”