Florida emerges as the preferred US destination for Chinese travelers
By Lance Crayon
People's Daily app

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There was a time when Miami was known as "The Magic City," but in recent years, the city has become the “Hong Kong of the West.” The Chinese have been arriving in Florida for years, thanks in part to initiatives rolled out by Florida lawmakers, real estate players and travel agents who recognized China’s tourist potential years ago when the country’s middle-class demographic began to skyrocket.

The Chinese like Florida for the same reasons as everyone else.  Weather, beaches, and a more significant return on real estate investments have had an influence. With destinations ranging from Disneyland to the 1,250 golf courses, the journey is worth it. 

With just over 21 million, Florida is the third most populous state, and less than 2 percent of its total population is Asian-American. For the 2010 consensus just over half a million Asian-Americans resided in Florida.  With the influx of Chinese, the number for 2020 is expected to double. China's significant holidays, Autumn Festival and Chunian both fall during Florida's offseason. Both holidays allow for extended visits, and because prices are lower during both period Chinese spend more. 

US money magazine Forbes reported that Chinese investors see Miami as a "global city" with affordable real estate.

Meanwhile, only four states have a lower tax burden than Florida.  If Miami is the state's Hong Kong, then Orlando is arguably its Beijing.

Mar-a-Lago, in Bel Air, has hosted the world's most prominent leaders,and has helped raise Florida's status in areas of importance and privilege.   

A significant factor is the Citrus State's pro-business environment, especially in the real estate sector.

In 1993, a miniature replica of China served as a theme park not far from Disneyland.  Visitors were able to walk through all of China's important landmarks in one afternoon. Unfortunately, the $100 million park was forced to close in 2003 due to utility and maintenance concerns. 

Next year Orlando will have another one-of-a-kind attraction with a China focus as the country’s first gun resort is expected to be up and running. Chinese travelers have fueled the gun tourism market, taking it to heights never before imagined.

As one real estate investor explained, the Chinese see Miami as a “global city where they can buy low and sell high later.” 

By the end of this year, Jingko, a Chinese solar panel manufacturing company will be up and running in Jacksonville and will employ over 200 Floridians.

The city is already home to roughly 25,000 native-Mandarin speakers.

In 1993, Florida Splendid China, a $100 million replica of the country spread out over opened to the public in Kissimmee, not far from Disneyland.

Jnkosolar, a Chinese-owned solar panel manufacturing plant will be up and running by the end of the year in Jacksonville, where roughly 25,000 Mandarin speakers currently reside.

Florida attracted 106.35 million visitors in 2015 – 275,000 who came from China.

In recent years, Chinese have shown interest in smaller cities like Tampa, Longwood and Cape Coral. According to data from USA.com, in 2014, Pensacola had the largest Chinese population with roughly 52,500.

Among the top 10 cities looked at by Chinese investors for 2016, Orlando ranked #6, according to Juwai, a real estate market watch platform focused entirely on the Chinese demographic.

Although fresh Indian River grapefruit is Florida’s largest cash crop for export, China receives less than one-half of 1 percent of Florida’s grapefruit exports. 

In another first with China, as part of a goodwill visit, three Chinese naval ships visited Jacksonville in 2015. In 2017, Fort Lauderdale hosted the North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament. It's a major sporting event centered on a faster version of the game popularized by Chinese immigrants in the 1930's. The three-day event generated $10 million for Fort Lauderdale.

Florida has set an example for the other US states to follow. The Treasure Coast has proven that if you roll out the carpet for Chinese travelers, then they will reciprocate.