With new Hong Kong link, US’ capital region trains sights on Asian market

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While the Capital Region may not be the top destination for Asian first-time visitors to the US, the regional destination marketing organisation Capital Region USA (CRUSA) – covering Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland – is hopeful such perceptions will change with a new direct connection from Hong Kong.

CRUSA is keen to leverage Cathay Pacific’s four-times weekly Hong Kong-Washington DC service starting September 15 to bring more leisure traffic from Hong Kong, executive director Scott Balyo told TTG Asia at a recent trade workshop in Hong Kong, which also comprised Destination DC, Visit Fairfax, Arlington Convention & Visitors Service and Virginia Beach CVB.

Stakeholders are hoping that the new direct flight from Hong Kong will send more outbound Hong Kong travellers their way; Capitol Building in Washington DC pictured

“This new flight will also give more options for markets like India, New Zealand and Australia (to visit the the US via Hong Kong),” Balyo said, while indicating that CRUSA will in 2019 step up marketing efforts in India, its fourth largest market.

As well, CRUSA will look at working with its airport partners and Washington DC to organise fam trips for the international travel trade. “In 2019, we’ll definitely bring a larger group to the travel workshop in Hong Kong,” Balyo remarked.

Sellers in the Capital region are eager to promote new products to woo potential visitors from Asia.

Last November, Destination DC launched The Museum of the Bible and collaborated with WeChat to roll out the City Experience Mini Program, an interactive guide that offers travel recommendations, attractions information and audio guides in Mandarin. As well, the World Bank Group has opened a new visitor centre.

Virginia Beach CVB, vice president tourism marketing and sales, Ron Kuhlman, said: “We are four-hour drive from Washington DC so I don’t see immediate traffic from Hong Kong from the outset because they may opt for popular destinations like Boston first.

“Still, we keep refining our offers. For instance, the 91-year Cavalier Hotel was refurbished and reopened in February 2018 as a Marriott Autograph Hotel whereas the 120-room Residence Inn by Marriott is set to open in October.

“Once agents are familiar with our products, they’ll have more confidence to put us in their itinerary,” he remarked.

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