From the Inside…with Bob Gilbert


IITA members are experts in the international inbound industry. That’s why we’ve asked them to share their expertise and market intelligence with you. Each issue of Insights will include an exclusive feature with a member who has a particular insight into subjects of importance to the industry. Watch for the series “From the Inside with…” in each issue. This week’s issue features Bob Gilbert.

Bob Gilbert has been providing international sales and marketing services for more than 30 years. He is a partner in Chinese Host based in Las Vegas. He has led international efforts at Walt Disney Attractions, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Delaware North, HelmsBriscoe to name but a few, and his creative efforts have won him 15 HSMAI Adrian marketing awards, Top 25 most influential travel industry executives. He’s served on the boards of NTA, US Travel Association and as an elected Commissioner for Visit California. He was a delegate at the 1995 White House Conference on Tourism and also an official delegate to the official launch of USA – China Tourism Year 2016 in Beijing. He is Marketing Chair for National Parks Promotion Council.

Chinese Host Inc. (CHD) is a privately held company founded by David Huang in 2000. Today, Chinese Host operates 40 buses and creates FIT and Group itineraries, shuttle bus services, bespoke customized travel arrangements, proprietary reservation and information platform for Chinese travel producers and full service representation services in China. CHD has hosted more than 1 million Chinese travelers since 2011 and features key destinations and attractions in the Western USA and National Parks. CHD has its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas with offices in Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai.

A 1.4 billion population. 200 million outbound travelers by 2020. Those are just two statistics why you should be thinking about China. Currently, about 3 percent of its travelers come to the United States. As that percentage continues to grow, that could soon mean 10 million Chinese visitors here annually. Are you ready?

Why is the China market so important?
The numbers speak for themselves. The marketplace is just incredible. There is a lot of pent-up demand. It’s just being realized by the Chinese themselves. China has evolved over the last three or four years with the freeing up of society and the maturing of financial institutions. (Its stock market has only been around for 10 years.)
Now, the most sought-after commodity is travel. There has been a deluge of Chinese travelers, which has been accelerated by the extended visa waiver program, which gives Chinese and other travelers a valid tourist visa for 10 years. Big trends today are the number of repeat visitors and the move to F.I.T (Fully Inclusive Tours) independent travelers.

How should my business or organization prepare?
Traditionally, markets develop over years. As that happens, travel preferences change, expand and mature. For example, when Europeans first came to visit the United States, they came in big groups, stayed together and went to a few markets. Now it’s commonplace to see F.I.T in various cities throughout the country. They strike out on their own and create a trip and experience that suits them.

The same is now true for Chinese travelers, but instead of taking 30 or 40 years, it has evolved in three or four years.