2.1m Chi­nese said to visit US this year

Obama seeks plan to cut en­try process

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

An es­ti­mated 1.8 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists vis­ited the US in 2013, and that num­ber is ex­pected to grow by 21 per­cent in to 2.1 mil­lion this year.

And US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has sig­naled that he’s go­ing do what he can to in­crease not only the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors, but all for­eign tourists.

On Thurs­day, Obama signed a pres­i­den­tial me­moran­dum giv­ing sec­re­taries at the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Com­merce de­part­ments four months to come up with a plan to stream­line the en­try process for for­eign vis­i­tors to re­duce wait times.

He also asked the de­part­ments to work with the na­tion’s largest air­ports to cut wait times for for­eign tourists.

A record 70 mil­lion for­eign cit­i­zens vis­ited the US in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a White House re­port; that com­pared to 55 mil­lion in 2009.

“I want to turn the 70 mil­lion tourists that came last year into 100 mil­lion each year by the be­gin­ning of the next decade,” Obama said Thurs­day to loud ap­plause in a speech at the Base­ball Hall of Fame in Coop­er­stown, New York.

“When it comes to tourism, we have a great prod­uct to sell. Noth­ing says ‘Made in Amer­ica’ bet­ter than the Em­pire State Build­ing or the Hoover Dam,” he said.

In a speech last week, Obama said, “Be­lieve it or not, tourism is an ex­port… And if we make it eas­ier for more for­eign vis­i­tors to visit and spend money at Amer­ica’s at­trac­tions and un­par­al­leled na­tional parks, that helps lo­cal businesses and grows the econ­omy for ev­ery­one.”

Travel and tourism were re­spon­si­ble for $1.5 tril­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity across the US last year, sup­port­ing 8 mil­lion jobs, ac­cord­ing to Obama.

“Tourism trans­lates into jobs, and it trans­lates into eco­nomic growth,” he said Thurs­day, adding that trav­el­ers “don’t just check out the (Hall of Fame), they rent cars, they stay at ho­tels, they eat at restaurants.”

The ease of ap­ply­ing for US visas in the past two years has en­cour­aged more Chi­nese to come to the coun­try.

Wait time for a visa in China on aver­age has been cut to less than five days on aver­age from as many as 100 days.

The State Depart­ment is­sued 9.2 mil­lion visas world­wide in 2013, up 42 per­cent over 2010, the re­port said.

On Wed­nes­day at the Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port, about 300 Chi­nese tourists, all in red T-shirts, were board­ing an Air China flight to Los Angeles for their eight-day trip that will take them not just to Los Angeles, but to San Diego, Las Ve­gas and other des­ti­na­tions on the West Coast.

They are part of a 7,000-people busi­ness del­e­ga­tion de­part­ing from sev­eral Chi­nese cities in groups this month for Ana­heim Cal­i­for­nia.

They are ex­pected to con­trib­ute $85 mil­lion to the lo­cal econ­omy. Cal­i­for­nia alone re­ceived 600,000 Chi­nese tourists in 2013 and that fig­ure is ex­pected to hit 800,000 this year.

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