The competition for tourist dollars on this side of the Pacific Ocean has prompted Monterey's visitors bureau to cross the ocean in search of customers.
Charlie Spiegel, sales director for the county Convention and Visitors Bureau, is in China attempting to woo new customers from the world's most populous country.
The bureau hopes to capitalize on what it says is an emerging market eager to spend money in places like Monterey.
"It's a culture worth learning about," said Tammy Blount, president of the county Convention and Visitors Bureau. "They could bring a lot of money to our community."
The bureau's increase revenue this year will allow it to allocate $50,000 for foreign investment with almost all of it going to China.
Spiegel's work will include creation of a Chinese language website about Monterey and building relationships with tourism agents who control travel out of the country.
Blount said China represented the best "return on investment" because Chinese visitors stay twice as long as those from other countries and have plenty of disposable income.
Forty-six percent of all Chinese travel to the United States was in California last year, said Jennifer Sweeney, a public relations manager for the state's tourism agency, Visit California.
Those visitors spent $1.5 billion and stayed an average of 10.6 nights, she said.
Spiegel will spend time, along with a coalition of other tourism agencies, traveling with Visit California to Beijing and Shanghai to make sales calls and gain contacts, Blount said.
Tourism bureaus from Anaheim, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Los Angeles will also be part of the coalition.
Some agencies chose to hold off on China for the time being. The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau is active in Germany and the United Kingdom, but decided to allow Visit California to act on its behalf instead of sending an employee, said spokeswoman Birgitt Vaughan.
Blount said meeting with Chinese contacts in person was crucial for success.
"That step opens a lot of doors," she said.
Blount said Chinese customers are a good fit for Monterey because the city offers what they look for in an American vacation: High-end shopping, "safe" adventures, good food and wine, and golfing.
She said it will be necessary for hotels to learn about Chinese culture and plans a conference on the subject this spring. For example, she said Chinese visitors will like slippers and a tea kettle provided by hotels.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.