2.1m Chinese said to visit US this year
Obama seeks plan to cut entry process
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.