Chinese tourists a boost to US

Updated: 2016-03-17 05:37

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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The 2016 China-US Tourism Year is expected to help boost the US tourism industry as international visitors spent an estimated $18.3 billion in the US in January, according to a report by the International Trade Administration (ITA) under the US Department of Commerce on Wednesday.

The report describes travel and tourism as still the nation's number one services export, citing the fact that international visitors spent the estimated $18.3 billion on travel to, and tourism related activities within, the US in January.

Educational and health-related tourism and short-term worker expenditures accounted for $4 billion in January, up more than 10 percent from January 2015, according to the report.

"Today's data show that the United States remains a desirable destination for international travelers," said Stefan Selig, under-secretary for international trade.

"The travel and tourism industry remains important to the nation's economy and to American workers, annually generating nearly $1.6 trillion of economic output that supports nearly 8.1 million US jobs."

"The Commerce Department continues to introduce new initiatives like the recently launched 2016 US-China Tourism Year to support President Obama's National Travel and Tourism Strategy goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors by 2021," he said.

The 2016 China-US Tourism Year, announced by President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama during Xi's state visit to the US last September, aims to increase travel and tourism between the two countries by enhancing the traveler's experience, increasing the traveler's cultural understanding and expanding the traveler's appreciation of natural landscapes in each other's countries.

From the US perspective, the US-China 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, according to an ITA report on Feb 25.

The exact amount spent by Chinese tourists in the US in January is not yet known, according to an ITA press officer.

Chinese travelers have been known in recent years for spending the most per capita among international travelers. According to the US Commerce Department, total US travel and tourism exports to Chinese visitors totaled a record $24 billion in 2014, accounting for 57 percent of services exports to China.

Total arrivals of Chinese tourists and travelers numbered 2.56 million in 2015 and is projected to reach 2.97 million in 2016, according to US Commerce Department.

An average of 2.1 million US tourists and travelers have been going to China annually in recent years, according to China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).

The total number of tourists going both ways is expected to hit 5 million, according to CNTA Chairman Li Jinzao at the launch ceremony of the 2016 China-US Tourism Year in Beijing held on Feb 29. That number was 4.75 million in 2015.

Both governments have applauded their 2014 announcement 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 — as a great spur to travel between the two nations.

China is now the fourth-largest source of international travelers to the US while the US is the third-largest source for China, according to Li, who added that the bilateral tourism trade has grown at a rate of 16 percent despite a slowdown in economy and trade.