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Steps to attract more Chinese visitors urged

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-19 09:39

Industry insiders have called for favorable policies to attract Chinese visitors as several cities in the United States and Europe have witnessed a decline in the number of tourists visiting from China in the past few years, resulting in loss of revenue for the tourism industry in those places.

Speaking to China Daily, Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice-president of the US Travel Association, a nonprofit organization representing the travel industry, said that China used to be one of the fastest-growing markets for the travel industry in the US, with "Chinese visitors spending more on average than visitors from any other market".

According to an analysis by the association, tourist inflow from China to the US last year stood at only 30 percent of 2019 levels, while the overall overseas travel recovery stood at 73 percent. The US saw 1.8 million fewer visitors from China in 2023 compared with 2019, resulting in an estimated loss of $9 billion in potential travel spending, according to the association.

Chinese tourists are much loved by international businesses as they are among the biggest spenders when they travel.

Statistics show that Chinese travelers represented the highest average spend per visitor, with each Chinese visitor spending an average of $11,849 in 2019, said the National Travel & Tourism Office, the agency within the US Department of Commerce that monitors tourism.

In New York City, about 8 percent of 14 million visitors in 2019 were from China, according to the New York City Tourism and Conventions Office. Around 390,000 were estimated to have visited from China last year.

The pattern is also being repeated in other countries.

Two million Chinese tourists visited France in 2019, generating more than 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in revenue, according to French newspaper Le Monde. However, in 2023, the figure fell to 1 billion euros.

"Chinese tourists are mainly welcomed by operators specializing in Chinese or Asian customers. Due to the absence of Chinese visitors, they starved for three years, which is extremely long, extremely hard," Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Les Entreprises du Voyage, an association that brings together 1,674 companies representing 85 percent of travel agencies in France, told Xinhua News Agency.

Travelers from China spent more than 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) a year in the United Kingdom before the pandemic. But the UK is currently missing out on 750 million pounds a year in spending by Chinese tourists, according to the Association of International Retail.

In 2021, the UK abolished VAT-free shopping for tourists. That made overseas visitors head to Italy and Spain and other destinations instead of the UK.

Speaking to The Telegraph, London, Paul Barnes, CEO of AIR, said, "If you want your economy to do well out of the international visitor sector, you really should be appealing to the Chinese, and the one thing that appeals to the Chinese is shopping."

"As Chinese travel patterns shift in favor of more regional, shorter-haul trips, the UK must reduce barriers to growth and compete more aggressively to welcome visitors from critical source markets like China," he added.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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