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South Coast Plaza begins celebration of Lunar New Year

Some 20 tour groups from mainland China will be stopping in Orange County as part of a trip around California.

January 19, 2012|By Imran Vittachi

According to the same market report by Visit California, in 2010 shopping ranked as the top activity among visitors from mainland China — ahead of dining and urban sightseeing, which were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 — and outpaced shopping done by visitors from other countries, who also ranked shopping as their top activity here.

Richard M. Swanson Jr., the Irvine-based regional director of the U.S. Department of Commerce, a zone that covers California, Nevada and Hawaii, was among a group of dignitaries who attended the ceremony.

"Shopping is linked to tourism," he said, referring to how vital Chinese tourists are to that sector. "Tourism is linked to trade and trade is linked to both importing and exporting products and services — and that means economic development in both countries .... What we would like to see in the future is the same type of foreign direct investment that the Koreans and the Japanese have, [which is] reflected here in California."

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Werner Escher, South Coast Plaza's executive director of domestic and international markets who emceed Thursday's ceremony, for years has overseen the SCP operation that promotes the shopping center to shoppers traveling from outside its core markets.

The veteran manager, who has worked for South Coast Plaza for nearly 45 years, has touted it as an "international destination" and "shopping experience."

"Our windows effectively compete with blue skies and sunsets," he said.

imran.vittachi@latimes.com

Twitter: @ImranVittachi

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