2016 China-US Tourism Year launched

Updated: 2016-02-29 11:20

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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2016 China-US Tourism Year launched

The US Commerce Department and the China National Tourism Administration, with Brand USA and partners, will promote travel between the two countries. Provided to China Daily

Events, activities planned to push two-way visits

China and the United States are scheduled to kick off the 2016 US-China Tourism Year at a ceremony in Beijing on Monday.

Brand USA, a public-private partnership that promotes the US as a travel destination, is expected to host the ceremony for the year-long program of activities that was an outcome of President Xi Jinping's state visit to the US in September 2015.

Throughout the year, the US Department of Commerce and the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), in collaboration with Brand USA and other partners, will host events and activities to promote travel between the two countries.

US President Barack Obama will be featured in a video message promoting the year on the US Embassy website starting on Tuesday.

From the US perspective, the Tourism Year offers the chance to build on the current double-digit growth in arrivals from China, expanding the US share of the nearly 100 million Chinese visitors traveling each year.

Both sides have attributed the key to achieving this goal to the 2014 announcement by the two governments of a reciprocal extension of visa validity for tourist and business travel from one to 10 years, and student travel from one to five years.

An estimated 2 million Americans have visited China annually in recent years. In 2015, 2.5 million Chinese traveled to the US in 2015 and the number is expected to hit 2.97 million in 2016. Chinese visitors spent $23.8 billion while in the country in 2014, according to the Commerce Department, accounting for 57 percent of services exports to China.

Travel and tourism is the US' largest services export, generating nearly $220.8 billion and supporting more than 1.1 million US jobs, according to the Commerce Department.

"I think our hope by extending the visa validity - and I think some of the numbers are starting to prove this is the case - we'll have increased visitation," Kelly Craighead, executive director of the Commerce department's National Travel and Tourism Office, told China Daily. "We're really looking to get more visitors to come, to stay longer while they're here, and to come back again."

Christopher Thompson, Brand USA's president and CEO, told China Daily that the tourism year gives "enormous platform" to the travel industry to increase visitor numbers and enhance travel experiences between the two countries.

"If you look at the Chinese market, only 6 percent of people have passports - and we get 3 percent of that 6 percent - so there's just tremendous potential there," he said.

"The year in tourism is going to give us a 'big stage under bright lights' and gives us a chance to raise our storytelling and build the relationships through CNTA and our Commerce Department, in ways that we probably couldn't have done," Thompson said.

Brand USA is leading a visit to China for American tourism industry partners, with more than 30 representatives visiting Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on a trip that began on Feb 24 and concludes on Friday.

Chen Weihua in Washington contributed to this story.

2016 China-US Tourism Year launched