Chinese tourists expected to flood Bay Area


A new agreement between China and the United States has opened the door for more Chinese tourists to visit the United States and that could mean big business for the Bay Area.

One large group of Chinese tourists we spoke to just got back to Pier 39 and they're about to take their cameras and their cash out around town.

The number of Chinese tourists is expected to double by 2011, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The organized group, who arrived to San Francisco Saturday, is the first organized group of Chinese tourists to hit the U.S. since a new agreement was signed between the U.S. and China.

That was last December, when the U.S. became an approved destination for Chinese tourists. Up until now, they had to come with a different purpose, like a student or business visa.

This new arrangement makes it much easier for San Francisco to market itself as a travel destination for Chinese visitors and it should bring in millions in new tourist dollars. Chinese visitors we spoke with on Saturday are eating it up.

"We want to see USA. We always see on TV station, but never see it ourselves, but now we can come here as tourist," says tourist Zhang Wen Yan.

"This is very huge. We're really excited about it. It's the opening of the flood waters, we hope," says Bob Macintosh, President and CEO of Pier 39.

There are 121 Chinese visitors in the group we spoke to. The Convention and Visitors Bureau says almost 100,000 Chinese already visit the Bay Area each year. With these new rules, they're expecting 200,000 by the year 2011.

Saturday's group has been all over the country to places like New York and Las Vegas. But the people we spoke with said this has been their favorite stop of the trip. One said "it's because of the weather."

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