Myrtle Beach mayor planning second trip to China this year

Fresh off of a recent trip to Haikou, China, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes is planning to return in June as a speaker at the third annual conference of World Cultural Forum in Shanghai.

“I was invited to speak on public diplomacy and developing Chinese and foreign relationships,” Rhodes said. “It’s an honor.”

Other invited guests include former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

In March, Rhodes went with Bill Golden, president of Golf Holiday, to the Iagto Golf Tourism Convention to meet with golf travel agents and learn what Myrtle Beach can do to become more marketable to the Chinese golfer.

“The purpose was to talk with the travel agents from Asia about golf and coming to the U.S. and learn exactly what we had to do to prepare for these visitors,” Rhodes said. “And it was to promote Myrtle Beach and let [travel agents] be aware of what we have to offer. When you mention 100 hundred golf course [on the Grand Strand], they were amazed.”

Rhodes said he also met with Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines – which both operate direct flights to New York City – to discuss ways to package trips to Myrtle Beach and make the city a destination for Chinese travelers.

“We want the golfers – which are the high-end travelers – and also the middle-class travelers to come here,” he said. “If we don’t make the attempt to look for new sources of tourists … our number of visitors will become stagnant.”