Chinese companies, tourists change US travel plans

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/5 20:33:41

Decline in visitors to deal blow: insiders

A view of the Tidal Basin known for its cherry blossoms in Washington, DC on April 3 Photo: VCG


A view of the Tidal Basin known for its cherry blossoms in Washington, DC on April 3 Photo: VCG

Chinese travel agencies and tourists are scrambling to adjust their plans and operations after the Chinese government issued travel alerts for the US, citing increased harassment by US law enforcement agents and rising public safety nuisances.

Coming at a time when the two countries are locked in a bitter trade war, the travel alerts could further exacerbate the already declining number of Chinese tourists and immigrants to the US and could, in the medium term, deal a major below to US companies and industries, insiders and analysts said Wednesday.

"The overall number of Chinese tourist [to the US] has been relatively stable but it is expected to decline because [the alerts] will affect consumers' decisions," said Xu Xiaolei, manager of marketing at China Youth Travel Services (CYTS), one of the largest travel agencies in the country.

CYTS will strengthen its services for domestic trips to ensure consumers' personal and property safety, according to Xu.

"The US is just one destination for Chinese tourists... we also have many other options," an employee at another agency, who declined to be identified, told the Global Times, noting that northern Europe and the Balkans have been increasingly popular among Chinese travelers.

Several other major Chinese travel agencies have also moved to focus on travel services to other destinations as they take the government travel alerts seriously by passing on the warnings on to their customers.

China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Tuesday issued travel alerts for the US, citing the high frequency of shootings, robbery and theft in the US. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the embassy and consulates in the US also issued warnings and urged Chinese citizens and entities in the US to step up their safety awareness, noting rapidly increasing harassment of Chinese visitors by US officials.

The alert came as many Chinese citizens, including tourists, students, scholars and entrepreneurs, are unnerved by what some describe as the US' growing unfriendliness and discriminatory treatment of Chinese nationals. 

"I felt the US' unfriendliness when I worked and lived in the US in the second half of last year," a Beijing resident, who only gave his last name as Guo, told the Global Times, pointing to "impolite" treatment of Chinese people. "Their thinking is that we Chinese people have seized their jobs."

Guo, who works for a US-funded company and lives in the US for at least six months each year, said he would not considering emigrating to the country. 

Others have also vowed to avoid trips to the US for the time being. "The world is more than just the US, why would I go to the US to look for bad treatment?" one Sina Weibo user wrote on Wednesday.

Economic pain 

Such unease among Chinese tourists toward the US will likely lead to sharp falls in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the US in the short term, if tensions between the two countries persist, said 

Jiang Yiyi, a professor at the Leisure Sports and Tourism School at the Beijing Sport University.

Amid the rising tensions, the number of visits made by Chinese citizens to the US saw a 7.9 percent year-on-year decline in 2018 to 2.9 million trips, the first drop after 15 years of consistent and exponential growth, according to data from the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) under the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

"Further declines will cause more losses for US companies in the value chain, including airlines and local travel and taxi services," Jiang told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that though China is not the largest source of tourists for the US, it is the largest source of tourism income, which has been growing rapidly.

In 2018, Chinese tourists spent $23.77 billion in the US, compared with $4.77 billion in 2007, according to the NTTO.

That is just tourism spending. Chinese citizens also spend a lot of money when applying for US citizenship through investment programs and many US companies have grown dependent on Chinese immigrants, according to Wang Lunwen, CEO of Sky Migration.

He said that the security alert will "definitely" increase wariness among Chinese citizens who seek to immigrate to the US through investment programs, especially after they have seen rising incidences of fraud and coped with long waiting periods.

"This will negatively impact many US business projects that are operating on [Chinese investments] and many job opportunities stemming from these projects will be severely hit," Wang told the Global Times. 

Chen Qingqing, Li Xuanmin, Zhang Hongpei and Shen Weiduo contributed to this report.

Newspaper headline: Companies, tourists rethink US travel

Posted in: ECONOMY

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