Expectations running high for China, U.S. tourism cooperation-Xinhua

Expectations running high for China, U.S. tourism cooperation

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-05-22 23:25:15

Chinese and Amercian students perform at the opening ceremony of the 14th China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, May 22, 2024. (Xinhua/Shao Rui)

XI'AN, May 22 (Xinhua) -- High expectations ignited calls at a China-U.S high-level tourism summit on Wednesday for concrete actions to remove tourism barriers between the two countries.

The 14th China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit drew nearly 400 representatives of the governments, institutions, and tourism-related enterprises of the world's top two economies to the ancient Chinese city of Xi'an.

Chinese State Councilor Shen Yiqin read a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony. She said President Xi's message fully demonstrates the great importance attached to the China-U.S. relations and ardent expectations for deepening China-U.S. tourism cooperation.


History has proven that China-U.S. cooperation potential in the tourism industry is huge.

Annual bilateral tourist flow reached a milestone in 2016 -- surpassing 5 million for the first time. Notably, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the United States exceeded 3 million for the first time that year, and their total travel expenditure surpassed 30 billion U.S. dollars for the first time, Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, said at the summit.

Escalating geopolitical tension and the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, have combined to reduce bilateral exchanges in recent years.

China responded to the ebbing of the pandemic by stepping up efforts to boost its tourism sector. From resuming a steadily increasing number of international flights and implementing a visa-free policy for more countries and cruise travelers, to simplifying visa-application procedures and optimizing payment services, Chinese authorities pressed the "acceleration button" to facilitate the recovery of its tourism industry.

Julie Durazo, with Pathways Travel based in Los Angeles, said the visa application process to enter China is now "a lot easier," compared to what was required during the pre-pandemic era.

Durazo, who is in Xi'an to research tour options, is planning to bring dozens of U.S. high school students to China this fall.

"I remember before it was at least a six-month waiting process. So we had to have our students sign up close to a year in advance," she said, adding that both paperwork and procedures have since been significantly reduced.

Durazo's husband, Paul Orr, joined her on the research trip and it took just four days for him to get his visa after submitting all necessary documents.

Latest figures released by China's National Immigration Administration showed that the number of foreigners visiting China had increased by more than threefold in the first quarter of 2024, when compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, approximately 1.1 million visitors from China had traveled to the U.S. in 2023, representing a 192.9-percent surge compared with the previous year, according to data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. The trend, however, is still more sluggish than what insiders had anticipated.

Attendees at the summit in Xi'an attributed these disappointing travel levels to a lack of flights, visa challenges, crime concerns, and general geopolitical tensions.

Currently, there are 100 direct flights every week between the two countries, which is less than one-third of the pre-pandemic level.

"Before the pandemic, we could fly direct from Los Angeles to Beijing or Shanghai, but now we have to make a stopover in San Francisco, and the ticket fare is much more expensive," said Durazo.

There is also a visa challenge that needs to be dealt with. Despite being one of the most desired overseas destinations among Chinese tourists, the U.S. visa application process has deterred many Chinese from planning a trip to that country.

"The average waiting time for a U.S. visa appointment is currently three months. In addition, the United States only offers individual visas, which require in-person interviews, and applicants from Xi'an have to go to either Beijing or Guangzhou for such an interview," said Peng Shuping, chairman of Xi'an Spring International Travel Service Co., Ltd. "We really hope that the visa application process can be simplified," Peng added.

Another obstacle is that Washington has issued a level-3 advisory concerning travel to China, calling on Americans to "reconsider" such travels, which has deterred many Americans who otherwise may have been more likely to visit China.

"We strongly hope that the relevant policies will be adjusted as soon as possible," said Zhou Xiaoguang, president of China Odyssey Tours.


The U.S. Commerce Department and Tourism Policy Council in June 2022 released a national strategy, setting an ambitious five-year goal of attracting 90 million international visitors to the United States each year, which would generate 279 billion U.S. dollars to support American travel workers and businesses.

"An important factor in achieving this goal is the ability of the U.S. travel and touring industries to attract more Chinese travelers to visit the United States for leisure, business and education purposes," Grant Harris, assistant secretary of commerce for industry and analysis at the U.S. Commerce Department, said at the opening ceremony in Xi'an. Harris also read a message from U.S. President Joe Biden at the summit.

China, which welcomed over 82 million inbound tourists while its domestic residents made nearly 101 million outbound trips in 2023, has also put tourism in a prominent position in its drive to encourage economic growth.

A national meeting on the development of the tourism sector was held last week in Beijing, highlighting that it is "imperative to promote high-quality development of the tourism sector," and the need to "speed up building China into a country strong in tourism."

Seeing the event in Xi'an as an opportunity to further revive the tourism market, industry insiders who attended it voiced strong anticipation for more pro-tourism measures to boost the global tourism industry.

"We regard Sino-U.S. travel as a barometer, so the tourism sector has great expectations for the recovery of Sino-U.S. travel," said Feng Gaoxuan, general manager assistant of Xi'an Overseas Tourist Co., Ltd.

Travel and tourism between the U.S. and China is of great importance not just to the world's two largest economies, but also to the entire global community, said Chris Clark, who is chairman of Visa Asia Pacific, at the summit.

"The importance of cultural exchange cannot be understated," Clark added. "It helps us understand and appreciate different cultures, values, and traditions that are different from our own, fostering mutual respect and understanding, and can improve communication and build better relationships between people and nations." 


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