Emerald City cameo in Chinese film bringing tourists to Seattle

Emerald City cameo in Chinese film bringing tourists to Seattle »Play Video

SEATTLE -- A big screen cameo is bringing a big boost to local tourism – but chances are you haven’t even heard of the hit movie.

The romantic comedy "Finding Mr. Right" debuted in March, and features the story of a Chinese woman who travels to Seattle to find the perfect man. It was such a hit in China and other Asian countries that large numbers of tourists are travelling to Seattle to experience the city for themselves, officials said Tuesday.

“The phones started ringing and it hasn’t stopped. We have been amazed at the response,” said Janet Christopher, vice president of tourism for Visit Seattle. “This is bigger than ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’”

Christopher said the city has seen a 90 percent increase in Chinese tourists over the past two years. She credits the increase to a streamlined travel visa process and, more recently, to the hit movie.

“It’s a romantic movie and it has really struck a chord with young women. All of these women relate and they want to come and see if they can find their ‘Mr. Right’ in Seattle,” Christopher added. “What we have seen is a number of people want to come over and have a second wedding or a honeymoon-type vacation; couples that are getting married in China but they want to come to Seattle and recreate a wedding experience because of this movie.”

The movie is so popular, in fact, that a crew from China’s largest network news channel, CCTV, is doing a live television broadcast from Seattle’s Kerry Park on New Year’s Eve.

“With this movie, it just attracts booming Chinese visitors,” said CCTV correspondent Qi Gao, who will be at the helm of the broadcast. “Especially for the young generation of Chinese, it’s not just for a destiny of traveling, it’s for a destiny of romance.”

“They try to be romantic, to have some story here,” Gao added.

Gao and his three-person crew have spent the past week putting together a couple of stories on the Chinese tourist influence in Seattle. One story follows the rise in Chinese homebuyers in Puget Sound; the other profiles the spike in visitors because of the film.

“I think the essence of this whole package is the story of how the Chinese meet Seattle,” Gao added.

At Seattle’s Pike Place Market Tuesday, visitors snapped photos in front of the iconic sign or put money into Rachel the Pig. One family said they were from China by way of Lacey, Wash; another young man recently relocated from Beijing to go to college in Los Angeles.

“We have quite a bit of an Asian family customer base,” said Uli Langenberg, owner of Uli’s Famous Sausage, a Pike Place Market shop. “They enjoy Seattle. They enjoy the food.”

Langenberg said he had a big group of Chinese tourists visit his store on Monday, but had never heard of "Finding Mr. Right."

“I watch a lot of movies and go to the movies once or twice a month but I’ve never heard of that,” Langenberg said. “So that means we’ll see more of them? I’ll be ready.”