The Chinese are coming to Monterey County in a big way come January.
The director of sales for the county Convention and Visitors Bureau persuaded a delegation of Chinese tourism officials to visit the county two weeks ago.
Charlie Spiegel said when he met the group in China they were just going to visit just Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
When he found out they would be driving through the county, he jumped.
"That's when I ... flipped my question," Spiegel said. "I said, 'How can we get you to come and stay?'"
Now, a group of travel agents, media, tourism groups and executives from China's largest airline, China Southern Airlines, will descend on Monterey the second week in January.
Spiegel said he told the group of the county's attractions in the hope it will sell the area to its nation's tourists in the future.
The visitors bureau sent Spiegel to China to drum up business as part of its roughly $50,000 investment in Chinese tourists.
Bureau President Tammy Blount said they targeted the world's most populous country because Chinese visitors stay twice as long as other tourists and have more disposable income.
"We made some great connections," Blount said of the trip, "learned a lot and began building a solid foundation" for future business from China.
Forty-six percent of all Chinese travel to the United States was in California last year, according to the state's tourism agency, Visit California.
Spiegel said California is an easy sell for the Chinese because they are familiar with the state from movies.
He said for that reason, 17 Mile Drive, featured in films "The Count of Monte Cristo," "The Parent Trap" and others, will probably be on the agenda.
Blount said the delegation is made up of important people who could influence travel, and the county was "getting in on the ground floor when it really matters."
Plans for the group of nearly 30 Chinese visitors are ongoing. Spiegel said they will stay one to two nights and the bureau is working on a packed schedule of activities.
"We're going to try to incorporate as much as possible," he said.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or email@example.com.