China tourists spend more

Updated: 2013-05-27 11:06

By Hu Haidan in New York (China Daily)

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Chinese tourists spent $9.2 billion in the United States in 2012, up 19 percent from the previous year, according to US government data.

Although the double-digit increase was smaller than the 47 percent year-on-year jump recorded in both 2010 and 2011, China remained the fastest-growing source of inbound US travelers. It again ranked at No 6 in spending by foreign tourists, according to data released last week by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, part of the Commerce Department.

In a separate report, the office projected that US travel by Chinese travelers would remain strong through this year's third quarter.

In a survey of tour operators, four out of 10 respondents expected "higher" bookings compared to the third quarter of 2012, while 45 percent predicted "much higher" bookings.

President Barack Obama's administration, in partnership with the travel and tourism industry, is working to promote the US as an international travel destination, spending $150 million for its global marketing campaign this year.

The Discover America campaign was launched in 2012 with an advertising pitch in the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan; China was added as a target market this year.

California, the most popular US destination for Chinese travelers, and other big states also report increased tourism from China.

A $1.6 million marketing campaign by the public-private partnership Visit California encourages foreigners to visit the state's beaches, mountains and man-made attractions. A key audience is Chinese visitors, who spent $1.5 billion in the state in 2011, or an average of $2,900 per visitor, according to Caroline Beteta, CEO of Visit California.

Of the $102 billion spent on travel and tourism in California last year, 20 percent was from foreigners. The industry supports almost 900,000 jobs and generates $6.3 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Chinese travelers, like many others, favor big cities when visiting the US - Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Boston is also popular due to its concentration of higher-education institutions, which many Chinese parents scout on behalf of their university-bound children.

Most families touring college and university campuses in and around Boston prefer having a bilingual guide, according to Evan Saunders, co-founder and CEO of Attract China. The two-year-old firm, with offices in Boston and Beijing, helps advises businesses in the Massachusetts city on how to attract Chinese visitors.

Saunders said he has found that the most effective way to get Chinese interested is through social media such as China's highly popular Sino Weibo micro-blogging service. His company uses its Weibo account to give updated travel information about Boston and offer bilingual tour information.

In 2011, Massachusetts welcomed 139,000 Chinese travelers, the third-biggest group, after Canadians and Britons.

Chinese tourism abroad has soared in recent years, partly due to the ease which foreign visas can now be obtained. According to the China Tourism Academy, Chinese citizens made 70 million trips abroad in 2011, up 22 percent from the previous year.

In the US, China as recently as 2008 didn't crack the top 10 among countries of origin for foreign visitors. But the record $9.2 billion from its citizens contributed to $168 billion in total spending on US travel- and tourism-related services last year, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

The five countries whose citizens spent more in the US were Canada ($26.2 billion), Japan ($16.6 billion), the UK ($13 billion), Mexico ($10.1 billion) and Brazil ($9.3 billion).

(China Daily USA 05/27/2013 page1)