U.S. destinations cheer the return of Chinese travelers

U.S. destinations cheered China’s decision to lift restrictions on group travel to the United States, the country’s top spending overseas market prior to the pandemic.

The U.S. was one of a group of countries, including the U.K, Australia and Japan, to which China has opened outbound group tourism.

U.S. Department of Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo called China’s move “a significant win for the U.S. travel and tourism industry” and attributed it to “months of hard work” between the Commerce Department and its counterpart in China.

“Before Covid, as many as 3 million Chinese travelers visited the United States annually, contributing more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy,” Raimondo said. “We look forward to once again welcoming Chinese group travel to the United States.”

Visa wait time remain a hurdle

Geoff Freeman, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, applauded the move but said that simply lifting the restriction on group travel would not be enough to bring Chinese visitors back.

“A rapid increase in visitation from China is contingent on the State Department reducing visa wait times, which remain stubbornly high worldwide,” Freeman said. “China was a top three market for overseas visitation prepandemic, but steadily increasing visa wait times threaten our ability to recapture these highly valuable visitors.

Destinations optimistic about Chinese travelers

Adam Burke, CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, called it “a significant milestone in L.A.’s tourism recovery.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Chinese tourism to Los Angeles, a market that was the No. 1 source of overseas travel prior to the pandemic,” Burke said.

Fred Dixon, CEO of New York City Tourism + Conventions, noted that while the return of outbound group travel from China “is very welcome news indeed,” air capacity from China will have to make a comeback as well.

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