At Universal Studios, they've printed stacks of theme park maps written in Chinese.
Disneyland for the first time sent salespeople to a trade show in China to promote the park.
And at the Shanghai Spring travel agency in Alhambra, owner Jan Huang has contracted for four new tour buses and hopes to double her staff of tour guides to 20.
It's all in preparation for what they hope could be a boom in new Chinese tourism to the United States that is expected to occur next year. Both nations are finalizing a deal to ease entry restrictions and lift a ban in China on promoting travel to the United States.
The negotiations have been going on for several years, but China government news agencies and sources at the U.S. Commerce Department said a deal should be completed within the next few weeks.
The new travel rules are expected to be a particular boon to Southern California, which already sees more Chinese tourists -- 110,000 in Los Angeles County last year -- than anywhere else in the United States. But travel officials expect that number to grow significantly if more members of China's emerging middle and upper classes are able to travel to the region for vacations.
"The Chinese middle class has been accumulating tremendous wealth," said Baizhu Chen, a professor of clinical finance and business economics at USC. "They're buying houses and cars, and now they want to travel. The Chinese have been closed for so long, they're eager to see the outside world."
In some ways, the situation appears similar to that of two decades ago, when free-spending Japanese flooded the likes of Disneyland and snatched up luxury goods on Rodeo Drive. But Chen and others expect the Chinese to spend their money on higher-end shopping rather than on expensive restaurants and hotels. "The first batch of Chinese tourists won't be that sophisticated," Chen said. "They will come in tour groups, not as individuals, and will need to stay in places where people speak their language."
Merchants who already cater to Chinese tourists are gearing up.
In Monterey Park, drug stores line Garvey Avenue selling vitamins, dietary supplements and virility pills popular among Chinese tourists who can often be found perusing the shopping district in dark business suits. Many of them don't trust the safety and capabilities of similar drugs in China.
The same can be said for jewelry and luxury watches, because many visitors are worried about fakes sold in Asia.
Busloads of Chinese tourists and other groups often pour into Hing Wa Lee's green marble and wood veneer showroom in San Gabriel to buy diamond rings, gold figurines and Rolex watches.
Afterward, they head to any of the dozens of authentic Chinese restaurants that line Valley Boulevard before retiring at the six-story Hilton hotel that towers over the many businesses offering imported DVDs, CDs, herbal medicines and foot massages.
"This is like Old Town Pasadena for Chinese," said Lee, a third-generation gem carver from Hong Kong. "If you're Chinese and you ask a travel agent overseas where to stay in L.A., they'll say San Gabriel."
China's travel industry is currently prohibited from marketing the United States as a travel destination because of disputes over the strict entry process initiated after 9/11 -- a reality that U.S. officials blame on the need for national security and concerns about visitors overstaying their visas.
Though no law bars Chinese from applying for various visas to enter the United States, many Chinese are put off by what they consider to be high rejection rates, long lines at U.S. embassies and consulates, lengthy personal interviews and costly application fees.
"The basic problem is the visas," said Xu Chaoyao, China's deputy consul general in L.A. "The percentage of those declined is very high. It's improved in recent years, but not enough. I think both sides want to sign an agreement, because it will benefit everyone and it's good for cultural exchanges."
Industry experts say the Chinese government wants assurances that travelers will garner entry visas more easily. Then Beijing will allow its major travel agencies to begin offering packages to the United States.
"It's like giving the Good Housekeeping seal of approval to visit the United States," said Noel Irwin Hentschel, chief executive of AmericanTours International, an L.A.-based tour operator. "I think the risk of people overstaying their visas is minimal. Sure, people will want to try to live in America, but I've seen the considerable changes in China."
Hentschel, vice chairwoman of the Commerce Department's U.S. Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board, has hired more Chinese-speaking staff in anticipation of a visa change. She said the first stages of the proposed agreement would allow only half a dozen Chinese tour operators to package vacations to the United States. Travelers would likely be restricted to the wealthy minority who live in major urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.