People dressed as Chinese traditional opera character, Michael Jackon, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck attend a massive flash mob highlighting Chinese and US cultural features in celebration of the 2016 China-US Tourism Year on the Ellipse lawn in front of the White House, Washington D.C., the United States, Sept. 5, 2016.Photo:Xinhua
Record number of Chinese and Americans have visited each other's country in 2016, official travel records showed, and experts say the growth in tourism between the two countries will help eliminate previous misunderstandings of each other.
According to the statistics from the China National Tourism Administration, from January to August 2016, a total of 2.17 million Chinese citizens chose the US as their first destination for overseas trips, up 15.5 percent from the same period of last year.
Meanwhile, from January to September 2016, more than 1.66 million US nationals visited China, a year-on-year increase of 7.5 percent, making China the biggest destination in the Asia-Pacific region for US tourists. American tourists became the third-biggest source of tourists in China.
President Xi Jinping announced in September 2015 that the two countries would hold a "year of tourism" for each other in 2016.
Tourism between the two countries is progressing with good momentum, said Li Jinzao, head of the National Tourism Administration.
"The main aim for the China-US Year of Tourism is to promote communication and eliminate misunderstandings between people of the two countries," said Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences.
During the Year of Tourism, large-scale tourist groups were organized by both countries, many involving thousands of people. According to the People's Daily, more than 8,000 Chinese enter the US every day on average, with 6,000 Americans landing in China. Travel agencies have promoted new routes in the China-US Year of Tourism. For instance, travel firm Tuniu Corp launched several packages, such as "traveling through US movies."
The natural landscapes, urban scenes and other locations where US films were shot could all attract Chinese tourists, while for American citizens, oriental culture is the most attractive, Liu Simin, vice president of the Tourism Research Institute of the China Society for Future Studies, told the Global Times.
China plans to raise tourism revenue to 7 trillion yuan by 2020, the government has said. For American tourists, a strong dollar has made China travel a cost-effective option, Liu Simin added.
Although China-US relations face uncertainties after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, Liu Weidong said unless his policy brings a "dramatic change" in Sino-US relations, tourism between the two countries would be hardly affected.
However, environmental problems such as smog are the main issues that would deter American tourists, while for Chinese citizens, a strict visa regime and high travel costs would be the main barriers, he noted.
"As long as the dollar and the yuan maintain a stable exchange rate, China-US tourism will have a bright future," Liu Simin said.
Tourism is expected to become a major driver of economic transformation and upgrade for China. By 2020, China will invest 2 trillion yuan in tourism, and the sector will contribute more than 12 percent of the total GDP, according to the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).