On the heels of the Governor’s successful Trade and Investment Mission to China, it’s important to take note of the major accomplishments made that will expand opportunities for California businesses and benefit our economy.  Some of these included opening California’s first foreign trade and investment office since 2003 and having a number of meetings to strengthen ties between California and China.

Over the course of this mission, the Governor, the California business delegation members and Chinese officials and business leaders discussed the mutual benefits of investment and export in a wide range of sectors.  One of the areas that is of greatest importance to California is tourism.  Our state is a global destination, particularly to Chinese travelers. That’s one reason why continuing to attract Chinese visitors to California is so important.

The California travel industry is an economic powerhouse that attracts more than $100 billion per year in business revenue, generates $6.3 billion in state and local taxes, and directly supports almost a million jobs.  The California Chamber of Commerce Economic Advisory Council’s latest report confirms that the tourism and hospitality industry significantly broadens the state’s economic base and helps drive development and growth.

China is our state’s fastest growing and most lucrative inbound tourism market with over 517,000 visitors per year. That’s over half a million Chinese visitors visiting our cities and national parks and shopping destinations – and spending money as they go. That’s significant when you consider that Chinese visitors alone inject $1.5 billion per year into the California economy.

It’s because of this economic benefit that during the trip, California launched an effort to attract Chinese travelers to ensure that that $1.5 billion they currently spend – and the potential for greater travel investment – will not go elsewhere.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capitalize on the rapid growth in outbound tourism from China,” said Visit California president and CEO, Caroline Beteta, in a press release. “Tourism is a powerful economic engine in California and China will become our number one overseas market in 2013, with over $2 billion in annual spending projected.”

California as a “product” is a priority and important new way of thinking. The California “product” as experienced by more than 14.5 million international travelers each year ranks among the state’s top exports, thus generating more revenue from international travelers than the combined value of the state’s top four product exports – civilian aircraft, non-industrial diamonds, computer parts, and voice/image/data transmission equipment.

Now with the trade mission concluded and the message delivered worldwide that California is open for business, we expect new foreign investments, strong business relationships and tourism to continue to be on the rise.