How do you say hello in Chinese?
Bruce Simon can tell you.
The broker and owner of Prime Properties of Jackson Hole is catering to an emerging tourist market with his recently opened East Meets West Chinese Information Center at the corner of Glenwood Street and Mercill Avenue.
Simon’s center provides translation as well as language and cultural lessons to businesses around town. For visitors, the post offers tour booking, ride-along Chinese-speaking guides and more.
“Jackson is falling behind in its tourist marketing or business for foreign visitors,” he said. “And since the Chinese visitor is a huge portion of the population, I thought it would make sense. Chinese tourism is changing the world tourist economy.”
The center opened May 1 and is managed by Li Wang, who teaches Mandarin Chinese at Jackson Hole Community School, Simon said. She is originally from Xian, China.
“We’re testing the market, but we’ve gone viral already, there’s been so much interest in it,” he said.
China’s population is 1.2 billion, and most Chinese people have heard about Yellowstone National Park, Simon said. Chinese people typically visit big American cities such as Los Angeles and New York City on their first trip to the United States, he said.
“The second time they come they all want to see Yellowstone, so all the gateway communities see an influx of Chinese tourists,” he said. “It’s projected to continue and grow.”
This year, Simon said, 60 million Chinese are expected to travel overseas. In five years that number is projected to reach 100 million.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce has been following the numbers, too, communications manager Kate Foster said.
“It’s certainly a target market for the chamber,” she said. Especially in the offseason.
“As people may have noticed, there’s been lots of tour buses in the spring,” she said. “It’s helping to fill our rooms in a traditionally quieter time of the year. It helps businesses and the community as a whole.”
Simon has traveled extensively in China and knows a lot about the economy and culture, he said.
“When I travel as a tourist in China I always feel very welcome,” he said.
Visitor centers there have people who speak English and Mandarin, he said.
“They’re set up for tourism,” Simon said. “The converse is what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Several businesses — including Barker-Ewing River Trips, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Haagen-Dazs and Knobe’s Radio Shack — have used the center’s translation services, he said.
“All the businesses have been smacked in the face by the Chinese,” he said.
And it’s important for valley businesses to better understand the culture to be able to market to the Chinese visitor, Simon said.
“Their culture is so different than ours,” he said. “It’s very helpful for local businesses to understand their culture. For instance, the Chinese are used to negotiating prices. That’s their culture. They negotiate, but our culture is things are priced as marked and firm.”
East Meets West also helps book tours.
“We really know what the best activities are for them,” Simon said.
Jackson Hole Shooting Experience is popular because civilians in China can’t own or even touch guns, he said. Wildlife tours and Western experiences such as the Bar J Chuckwagon are also popular.
Simon has also set up a real estate and investment tour for visitors.
“Chinese are buying real estate all over the U.S,” he said. “In China, when you own real estate, you own the building above the land but the government owns the land.”
The center also offers ride-along guides for visitors who want a tour of the parks, he said.
“I’m just trying to be a part of the world economy,” he said.
Simon also thinks his business will provide better relations between Americans and the Chinese.
“There is stress between the two countries on a political and military level,” he said. “Part of what I’m doing is building bridges on a person-to-person level.”
The East Meets West Chinese Information Center is open daily.