by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, July 13 (Xinhua) -- The Beverly Center, an eight-story shopping mall located at the heart of Hollywood's Film Studio Zone adjacent to famed Beverly Hills, is gearing up for a vibrant summer sales season dominated by tourists from China.
"We've always been at the forefront of what tourism means to Los Angeles, especially for visitors from China," Carlos Montenegro, a former manager at Disney, now Manager of Tourism and Customer Amenities for the Beverly Center, explained to Xinhua on Friday. "We create an incredible shopping experience for our Chinese visitors."
The most popular shopping mall recently underwent a massive, three-year, 500-million-U.S.-dollar renovation to keep pace with global trends.
To enhance visitors' shopping experience, they updated mall design and fixtures, expanded the eating areas, illuminated the top floor space with giant skylights, added additional high-tech functionality, and mounted a two-story "digital art wall" featuring stunningly hypnotic video art pieces by internationally-renowned digital artist Refik Anadol.
"We reimagined the entire property from the ground floor up," revealed Montenegro enthusiastically.
"We created beautiful new vistas all under one magnificent skylight... with incredible floor to ceiling panoramic views of downtown LA, the Griffith Observatory and the famous Hollywood Sign - all seen from the comfort of the air-conditioned Beverly Center."
The 883,000-square-foot mall is a frequent destination for Chinese visitors to the LA-Beverly Hills area because it caters to luxury brands, which are favorites of Chinese consumers, including Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Ferrari, and many more.
Of the nearly three million Chinese tourists who traveled to the United States last year, over one third of them picked Los Angeles as their destination of choice, ranking China second only to Mexico in the number of annual visitors to the city of Los Angeles.
Chinese tourists racked up 1.6 billion U.S. dollars on local restaurants, hotels, retail shopping, and entertainment in 2018, which accounted for 23 percent of all international spending in the city.
At the Beverly Center, that percentage is even higher.
"Of the millions of shoppers at the Beverly Center, about 38 percent are tourists, and the vast majority of those are Chinese," Montenegro revealed.
"And the Chinese tend to spend 25 percent more than the average overseas visitor," he added.
Many Chinese visitors who come to the country to experience American culture and visit top universities with an eye to enrolling their son or daughter are also eager to take advantage of the opportunity to shop for luxury fashions, handbags, and shoes as well as things like nutritional supplements - all of which are cheaper to buy in the United States than they are in China.
These visitors are warmly welcomed at the Beverly Center, where Mandarin-speaking staff are available at the information and concierge desks. In fact, to serve and welcome the wide range of foreign visitors to the Beverly Center each year, the Beverly Center staff is proficient in eight languages, Montenegro said.
Chinese travelers are far more technologically-driven than U.S. travelers and rely heavily on the popular, Mandarin-language mobile phone apps, such as WeChat and Weibo, China's largest social and messaging apps, which they use extensively to plan their trips and to make their purchases while they travel.
The Beverly Center recognized long ago that if their outreach was not readily accessible in Mandarin on their mobile devices in their favorite social media apps, Chinese tourists would probably never read it.
"We've been China-ready for the last 10 years," said Montenegro. "And in recent years, we've been actively engaged our Chinese customers on Chinese social media, including Weibo and WeChat."
He added, "Many of our stores now accept mobile payment, like WeChat Pay, Alipay, and UnionPay that Chinese customers are used to paying with at home."
Making things easier and more convenient for their foreign visitors is a bit of a 'no-brainer' and has proved to be very good for business.
"All that has enabled us to see a significant increase in our Chinese engagement - resulting in double digit growth year over year," Montenegro revealed.
The Beverly Center also hosts Chinese-oriented events, such as during Chinese Lunar New Year and other festivals throughout the year, and promotes some enterprising sales, like a recent Prada Pop Up.
Xinhua also learned that the Beverly Center is no stranger to discovering talented new designers.
"Many years ago when he was just starting out, we hosted Mr. Bags (Liang Tao) at the Beverly Center during a Lunar New Year promotion. Now Mr. Bags has millions of followers and when it came time to launch his worldwide tour, he came back to us first. That was quite a coup," said manager Montenegro.
"We work a lot with local artists and fashion designers, and we have created and crafted valuable partnerships with many industry leaders and local agencies throughout the years, so we can honor where we've been, celebrate what's up & coming in LA, and see where we're going," he explained.