US would ben­e­fit from eas­ier visa ac­cess, ex­perts say Re­lax­ing re­stric­tions on vis­i­tors will send trans-Pa­cific travel soar­ing

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING zhaoxiny­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Tourism in­dus­try in­sid­ers are call­ing for eas­ier Chi­nese ac­cess to the US, cit­ing a surge in trans-Pa­cific leisure travel that has ben­e­fit­ted the United States’ econ­omy.

“If the US visa ser­vice were eas­ier, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple in sec­ond- or third-tier Chi­nese cities, the mar­ket would surely see huge growth,” said Xiao Yinyuan, a di­rec­tor at on­line travel agency Ctrip.

US gov­ern­ment fig­ures show a rise in the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors in each of the past 13 years, with a ten­fold in­crease since 2005. Last year, main­lan­ders made al­most 3 mil­lion trips to the US, up by 9 per­cent from 2015. They spent $33 bil­lion in to­tal.

Wang Huabei, a pub­lic relations of­fi­cer at on­line travel ser­vice provider lv­mama.com, at­trib­uted the growth to the US’ 10-year visa for Chi­nese peo­ple, and an in­crease in di­rect flights be­tween ma­jor cities of the two coun­tries.

“On top of this, 2016 was China-US tourism year. Events staged by both sides have aroused in­ter­est in the US as a des­ti­na­tion,” he said.

Yet com­pared with Thai­land, which re­ceived 8.7 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists last year, and Ja­pan which wel­comed 6.4 mil­lion, the US still seems want­ing.

The long dis­tance and flight time is cer­tainly a fac­tor, but Xiao said the dif­fi­culty of gain­ing a tourist visa is more im­por­tant. “A US visa re­quires a face-to-face in­ter­view. There are very few US visa cen­ters in China, and ap­pli­cants may be re­jected,” he said.

Wang said the peak sea­son for Chi­nese tourism in the US is be­tween May and Oc­to­ber. Pop­u­lar routes in­clude the “west line” of Los An­ge­les, San Fran­cisco and Las Vegas, as well as the “east line” link­ing New York, Wash­ing­ton and Bos­ton.

Xiao said six out of 10 tourists book­ing US trips through Ctrip are ages 19 to 45, with an av­er­age spend of 17,000 yuan ($2,560). “A no­table trend is that young stu­dents are ac­count­ing for a big­ger pro­por­tion of Chi­nese tourists to the US, with more head­ing there for sum­mer camps or study tours,” he added.

Man­sion in Shang­hai.

HE QI / CHINA DAILY

The pop-up book­store is part of a two-month event held at Si­nan

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