JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - It’s a common sight around Jackson this summer: Chinese tourists milling around Town Square posing for photos in front of the iconic elk antler arches.
It’s also a sight that doesn’t come as a surprise to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and new businesses that are working to cater to a new group of tourists.
“It’s been a strategy of many businesses in the area to go after that market for quite a few years,” chamber of commerce president and CEO Jeff Golightly said.
Many hotels have been targeting the Asian tourist market, he said, and chamber representatives have been to trade shows to attract Asian visitors.
“It’s a multiyear strategy to get these folks here,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Mostly we’re seeing the success from a pretty savvy group of marketers. We’re seeing that traveler start to show up.”
While the chamber does not have exact numbers for Chinese visitors, one business owner catering to the market has an estimate.
Brian Riley, co-owner of Old Hand Holdings who is working on a Mandarin language guidebook to the area, guesses about 500 Chinese tourists are in town each day. That includes the 250 who show up in tour buses and the nearly 50 percent of all visitors who are younger, independent travelers, he said.
Chinese visitors are familiar with and interested in America’s national parks, he said, which means Jackson ranks as a destination for those travelers.
“When you go to China, they’ve all heard of Yellowstone,” said Mark Newcomb, an economic consultant and a board member of the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs.
Newcomb returned Monday from a trip to China. He visited the country with a delegation of state legislators to talk about strategies to reduce carbon emissions from coal.
He said he can see why Chinese are enamored with nature.
“They’re coming from a really crowded and polluted environment, and that’s also a draw for the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone,” he said.
The influx of Asian tourists has made Grand Teton National Park take notice, too.
“It is definitely a bit of change and an exciting change, reaching out to people who may not have previously understood the beauty and wonder of America’s national parks,” park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. “It has made us realize we need to develop information in various languages - probably Mandarin - to reach out to the international tourists.”
Two new businesses in Jackson have sprouted up this spring to do just that.