Graduation season a boon to local US economies

Updated: 2013-06-10 12:01

By Chen Jia (China Daily)

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Graduation season a boon to local US economies

With commencement season here, many Chinese parents have booked travel to the US to watch their daughters and sons make their academic transitions in life. It is also a unique opportunity for them to immerse themselves in American culture and get an idea of how their hefty investment may be paying off.

Cecilia Zhu, a Chinese mother whose only daughter just graduated from a private high school in Utah, was pleasantly surprised to learn that she and her husband didn't have to do a thing to plan their trip across four states.

"We didn't spend one dollar on a travel agency," she said. "My daughter took care of all the reservations - hotels, restaurants, car rentals and airline tickets."

With around a $20,000 budget, the family is traveling throughout the western states of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, before ending in California, where their daughter will continue her studies at UC-Irvine.

"Many American students will have a long-distance travel experience after their graduation from high school or university," the daughter said. "For me, the family trip is a kind of similar chance to broaden my mind."

She is among an increasing number of Chinese students who make travel and shopping plans for their parents during commencement season, and they approach it as one way to say 'thank you' to their parents.

Many Chinese parents get their visas as early as April because of the commencement season rush. Unlike travelers who go with travel agencies, these Chinese parents are able to take their time, enjoy special arrangements and get a better feel for local culture.

For Brad, an American paragliding pilot who works in Teton Village, Wyoming, Chinese travelers have been a boon to his business a week before peak season has officially started. "Most of my clients used to be Americans as few foreign travelers will take detours to stop by this little village," he said. "They have to stick to the cliche route arranged by a travel agency."

However, he said that this graduation season he had been seeing more and more Chinese travelers come to the village by driving themselves. "They like to pay $225 for a paragliding experience, and $50 a piece for photos," he said. "they generously paid for my but alo steak dinners during past weeks and hopefully it will continue."

In the town of West Yellowstone, a Chinese restaurant owner recently had to hire extra waiters during commencement season. "Too many Chinese travelers have been here during graduation season, so our peak time comes earlier than the steakhouse or pizza house in town," a waiter told China Daily. "One night we served at least 50 Chinese travelers in one hour."

In 2012, American President Barack Obama called for a national strategy to create more job opportunities for Americans by inspiring inbound travel from foreign countries and domestic trips as well. In 2011, the US attracted 62 million international tourists, whose spending reached $153 billion. the target is to attract 100 million foreign visitors by 2021, who are supposed to bring $250 billion a year into the country's economy, while encouraging more travel by local residents.

Under the Jobs Diplomacy initiative of the Obama Administration, the US State Department has been more flexible on visa processing because travelers from abroad are an important boost to the US economy. US officials announced a 46 percent increase in visas processed for Chinese travelers in 2012.

China's outbound tourist body in 2012 reached a staggering 83 million, which was an increase of 18.4 percent year on year, according to the National Tourism Administration.

"It is very common that a Chinese mother or father sit next to you on the plane on US-bound airline / ights during graduation season," said Kang Di, a Beijing student at UC-Santa Barbara. "Increasing numbers of Chinese families are capable of providing financial support for their children to study in the US at a younger age, and it is not hard for them to pay for an expensive trip to attend their child's graduation."

The Chinese students who have to stick to an internship job during graduation season also don't want to miss the opportunity to invite their parents to the United States.

"I was recently asked by some Chinese students whether I would like to accompany their parents for a couple of days travelling on the west coast as a driver," San Francisco

driving school teacher Jason Song told China Daily. All the hotels had been booked and the routes planned. The only requirement for the driver was / uency in English and Mandarin.

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(China Daily USA 06/10/2013 page2)