Tourism year kicked off by Washington, Beijing

Updated: 2016-03-01 10:53

By Su Zhou in Beijing and Amy He in New York(China Daily)

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Tourism year kicked off by Washington, Beijing

Li Jinzao, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (center), US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (second from left) and Max Baucus, US ambassador to China (right), attend the opening ceremony of the US-China Tourism Year 2016 in Beijing on Monday.[Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

Official hopes trips between nations will total more than 5 million during 2016

China and the United States launched the US-China Tourism Year 2016 at a ceremony in Beijing on Monday.

The tourism year was announced by President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama during Xi's state visit to the United States in September.

It aims to increase travel and tourism between the countries by enhancing the travel experience, increasing travelers' cultural understanding and expanding the appreciation of natural landscapes.

Li Jinzao, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, passed on Xi's wish to see more Americans in China.

"The shortest direct flight between China and the US takes 11 hours while the longest takes 16 hours. The Pacific Ocean does not prevent people from visiting each other," Li said. "In 2015, total bilateral visits surpassed 4.75 million. We hope the number will surpass 5 million this year."

Major events scheduled include one with 1,000 American tourists visiting the Great Wall, to be held at the wall's Jinshanling section in Hebei province on March 25; a tourism promotion in the US titled Beautiful China-Maritime Silk Road; a high-level China-US dialogue on tourism to be held in northwestern China's Ningxia autonomous region; and a grand closing ceremony at the end of the year.

China has become the fourth-largest source of foreign tourists for the US and is expected to become the largest by 2020.

In 2015, 2.5 million Chinese traveled to the US. The number is expected to hit 2.97 million in 2016. Chinese visitors spent $23.8 billion while in the United States in 2014, according to the US Department of Commerce, accounting for 57 percent of services exports to China.

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