The Arcade could be turned into a Chinese quarter to help attract up to 70 million tourists who see Barnsley as their spiritual home, according to the president of the town's Chamber of Commerce.
Owen Gleadall said more should be done to encourage followers of missionary James Taylor Hudson who left Barnsley for China in 1853 and founded the China Inland Mission, one of the largest Christian movements in the world.
A meeting was held at The Civic this week to discuss ways to attract high-spending Chinese tourists to Barnsley.
Mr Gleadall, president of the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, spoke of his vision for the Arcade with John Foster, chairman of the James Hudson Taylor Group; Neil Brown, from Barnsley College, at the meeting with other specialists and interested parties.
There are currently just over 400 Chinese people living in Barnsley, but it is thought that a lot more could be attracted to the town.
The Hudson Taylor Trail, including places in Barnsley where he was involved such as his family church and where he preached, is due to open in March, and blue plaques have been erected.
Mr Gleadall said there were also other things that business people could do to help, such as displaying signs in their shop windows in Chinese, and the possibility of opening an authentic Chinese restaurant.
"We have a lot to offer and we don't always see it that way."
He said targeting just ten per cent of the 70m Chinese Christians could generate £20 million.
"We need to take ownership and make it happen. Our strapline is 'we mean business'. We are trying to give people the drive to move forward and create economy for this town."
Market trader Neil Baxter said he believed the town centre would be dead in five years if the economy did not improve.
But he said many people may not know about Taylor Hudson and the opportunities available to them.
"I'm completely onboard with it. I work in this town every day of every year and I can see it is dying. It pains me to say it but if I asked someone why they didn't come to the Taylor Hudson meeting, I don't think they would know what I was talking about."
Council leader Steve Houghton said a separate meeting had been held with Mr Gleadall and chief executive Diana Terris to discuss the proposals.
He said the council hadn't committed any funding, but it could become part of its economy strategy.
"We would want a private business to come and take the opportunity, then they would have access to the business grants available.
"We need to make the most of our efforts. We've had a lot of visitors from China already, but if we could bring more, it brings money and prosperity. If we could get a proposal around that, it would be a very positive thing, but there is a lot of work to be done before then."
Coun Houghton said a meeting would need to be set up between the council, the chamber and Welcome to Yorkshire to explore the idea further.