Last month, China announced it is lifting restrictions on group travel to the United States and several other countries, a move that U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hailed as “a significant win for the U.S. travel and tourism industry.” Then she cut to the heart of the matter: U.S. tourism officials are pining for the return of Chinese tourists, by far the biggest spenders among global travelers.
“Before Covid,” Raimondo said, “as many as three million Chinese travelers visited the United States annually, contributing more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy.” In 2019, 2.8 million Chinese visitors accounted for only 4% of all inbound foreign travelers to the U.S., yet they accounted for 13% of spending. This year, fewer than 850,000 Chinese will travel here, according to the National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO), the agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that tracks tourism statistics. That 68% drop in traveler volume translates to more than $20 billion that Chinese visitors will not spend in the U.S. this year.
Raimondo’s agency has set a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027. Though few officials say the quiet part out loud, the most prized tourists are those who stay longer and spend more at hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions. The average Chinese tourist traveling independently (versus a group tour package) spends $10,445 on a trip to the U.S., according to data collected by the NTTO. Comparatively, the typical visitor from the United Kingdom or Brazil spends $2,576 and $3,269, respectively, while the average Japanese tourist spends $3,783. In other words, it takes roughly three Brazilian tourists or four U.K. tourists to make up for every Chinese tourist who travels elsewhere.
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