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Chicago, United Airlines working together to attract Taiwanese

2018/06/13 21:02:00

CNA file photo

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) The U.S. city of Chicago is working with United Airlines to attract more Taiwanese tourists as it tries to expand its tourism market and position itself as a major leisure travel destination.

Officials from Choose Chicago, the city's marketing organization, told CNA last week that the city has been exploring inbound tourism bases outside of its core foreign markets of China, Canada and Japan since two years ago.

According to data from 2016, out of the roughly 55 million tourists the city accommodates each year, only 1.5 million came from foreign countries, which exposes a need to tap into more sub-markets, such as Taiwan, said Michelle Revuelta, vice president of media relations at Choose Chicago.

It is also important that besides the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition sector, which has traditionally dominated Chicago's travel market, the city can elevate its profile among the world's leisure travel destinations, she said.

Working with locally based franchises is a good start, Revuelta said, adding that the organization is partnering with United Airlines to encourage Taiwanese to visit the city.

Dave Hilfman, senior vice president of United Airlines' Worldwide Sales Department, said the company is interested in evaluating Chicago as a possible direct flight destination for Taiwan.

The airline currently provides daily round-trip direct flights between Taipei and San Fransisco, and has seen a satisfactory average load factor of 89 percent since the service was resumed four years ago, he said.

"I have never been more excited about the future of United and our two countries doing business together," Hilfman said.

While the company needs to examine data points such as total passenger numbers, average fares and a demand curve to estimate the profitability of the Taipei-Chicago route, it has already started to develop the Chicago-bound market, working with the city's tourism authorities, according to Hilfman.

Both parties have been jointly promoting the city to the media and travel agents, he said.

Mark Kelly, commissioner of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said the city has a lot to offer to art lovers in Taiwan.

Unlike New York and Los Angeles, where the arts are under heavy commercial influences, tourists can find more authentic creations in terms of music and theater, he said.

From the city's stunning skyline, to the community-based linear and elevated park "The 606," along with other attractions such as gourmet food and sports, Chicago has a diverse cultural landscape that defines it as a "quintessential American city," he said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)