U.S. Tourism Officials Visited China For the First Time in 4 Years
22.09.2023 - 02:17
/ Dawit Habtemariam
/ Chris Thompson
/ Fred Dixon
U.S. tourism businesses just finished their first post-pandemic sales missions to China — their first trips in four years.
Visit California and NYC Tourism + Conventions brought delegations of hotels, attractions and local businesses. Delegate members had meetings with China’s tour operators, travel agencies and members of its local travel industry.
Boosting travelers from China is a priority for U.S. tourism boards.
In 2019, China sent 2.8 million travelers to the U.S., making it the fifth largest source market, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. In 2023, It is expected to reach just 849,000.
And in 2019, Chinese tourists were the U.S.’s top market in terms of spending – over $30 billion, according to Brand USA President and CEO Chris Thompson. Without them, he said, there will be no recovery for the U.S. tourism industry.
In August, China lifted pandemic-era group tour restrictions for the U.S. and other key markets.
Fred Dixon, NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO, said there’s been a rise in travel inquiries about trips to New York City since then but that other issues have held back booking volumes: Specifically, there are still limited flights between the U.S. and China and long wait times for visas. New York City expects to receive 386,000 Chinese tourists this year.
Here are key takeaways from the China trips:
From his conversations with tour operators and travel agencies, demand seems “strong” and the outlook is positive, said Jean-Yves Ghazi, president of the Empire State Building Observatory.
Caroline Beteta, Visit California CEO, had a similar takeaway: “It’s really incredible. There’s so much pent-up demand,” she said. Beeta herself didn’t go to China, but members of her staff led the delegation and briefed her. Visit California plans to invest over $7 million on marketing in China over the coming months.
China’s economic slowdown could deter spending on international travel. But while China deals with a youth unemployment rate of 25%, the demand is still there.
“The tour operators have not mentioned any reference to the impact of the economy,” said Ghazi.
“When you look at the country in terms of unemployment and any economic challenges, the wholesale number of people in China, and then you take the cut that are actually able to travel, it still satisfies demand and people wanting to get on planes right away,” said Beteta.
Chinese tourists face steep wait times to get a visitor visa interview. “The first step for any new Chinese traveler that is not in possession of a 10-year visa is to get a visa before they can acquire an airline ticket. That’s the first challenge for them,” said Ghazi.
There’s a long queue for a tourist visa. “Unfortunately, there’s still 160,000