This article is a best prospect industry sector for this country. It includes a market overview and trade data. The article is part of the U.S. Government's Country Commercial Guide for China. For the complete Guide to China and over 120 other countries please visit export.gov/ccg.
Last Published: 7/30/2019

Overview

China has become one of the most important outbound tourism markets in the world. Chinese outbound travelers reached 134 million in 2018, an increase of 3% or 4 million travelers from 2017.
 
The United States is an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers. In 2018, China ranked as the 5th largest international market (and 3rd largest overseas market) for the United States.  According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, 3.2 million Chinese travelers visited the U.S. in 2017, constituting a 4% increase over 2016.  In 2018, there was no growth in tourism from China and arrivals remained stable.
 
The United States received more than $35 billion in spending from Chinese tourists on travel and tourism related goods and services in 2017 (final 2018 data is not yet available).  China is the largest travel export market for the U.S.  The charts below illustrate Chinese travel trends in the U.S. through 2018.
 
Top International Arrivals to the U.S. between 2014 and 2018 (millions)
RankCountry of Residence2015201620172018% change 2017 to 2018
1Canada20.719.2920.2121.24.9%
2Mexico18.3718.9917.8218.53.9%
3United Kingdom4.914.594.484.63.9%
4Japan3.793.63.593.4-2.8%
5China (excl. HK)2.633.053.172.9-5.7%
6Germany2.282.052.082.0-0.9%
7South Korea1.781.982.332.2-5.3%
8Brazil2.231.731.912.215.5%
9France1.771.641.671.61.6%
10Australia1.451.351.321.2-2.0%

  Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, National Travel and Tourism Office
 

Leading Sub-Sectors

As China rebalances its economy to promote consumerism as a greater driver of economic growth, the best sub-sector prospects for U.S. travel and tourism suppliers include luxury travel experiences, such as winery tours, fine dining, golf courses, and other leisure activities.  While group tours to well-known American destinations are still pre-eminent, more Chinese travelers are becoming interested in venturing off the beaten path to visit places of natural beauty and of cultural and historical significance. 

Opportunities

While the 3.2 million visitors from China in 2017 represented substantial growth from an already significant number of travelers, this figure represents about 2% of the 131 million outbound travelers from China.  This suggests that substantial opportunity remains for the U.S. travel service industry to capture a greater share of the Chinese market and should encourage the industry to focus on understanding the complexities of the Chinese travel market.  Currently, 16 U.S. cities are connected by non-stop flights to Chinese cities.  The top three states for inbound Chinese visitors are California, New York, and Hawaii with 1.3 million, 800,000, and 300,000 Chinese visitors respectively per year.

Emerging Trends in Chinese-U.S. Visitation

While package tours still account for 70% of Chinese tourism to U.S., the “Frequent Independent Traveler (FIT)” segment is witnessing rapid growth.  Tastes in travel and travel experiences are changing with a decrease in the average age of Chinese travelers and an increase in the availability of online resources to research and purchase travel services independently.  The Chinese travel market is rapidly shifting from a multi-destination to a multi-experience focus. The FIT traveler profile is often young (18-44), highly educated, affluent, tech-savvy, and English-speaking.
 
There is growing demand for travel to U.S. destinations outside the most frequented gateway cities (i.e. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) as more and more Chinese visitors can afford increasing amounts of international travel.  This demand creates travel service opportunities for historically less-popular U.S. destinations by Chinese visitors.  To attract more visitors, less-frequented destinations should take the time to understand the Chinese traveler and articulate the unique value of their respective destinations. 

Profile of the Chinese Traveler to the U.S.

The average age of Chinese travelers to the U.S. is in their mid-thirties, and the average travel party size is 1.8 people.  Travelers visit an average of 1.8 states and approximately 34% of travelers visit friends and family during their stay in the U.S.  The median length of a trip is 14 days and most spend between $8,000 to $10,000 per traveler.  Furthermore, the median household income for Chinese travelers visiting the U.S. has fallen from $49,000 to $45,000. This may indicate that overseas travel to the U.S. is becoming more accessible to the Chinese population.  Finally, about 43% of Chinese travelers are choosing the U.S. as their first international trip.The U.S. is the only long-haul destination ranked in the top ten destinations for Chinese travelers.

Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS)

The successful launch of EVUS in November 2016 marked the full implementation of the 10-year visa validity for Chinese travelers. The implementation of the visa validity agreement in November 2014 resulted in a 53% increase as compared to the previous 12-month period. Chinese travelers’ demand for visas continues to be strong.  Mission China issued over 1.69 million non-immigrant visas (NIV) to Chinese travelers in fiscal year 2017, a decrease of over 25% from the previous year due mainly to the introduction of the ten-year visa.  This number represents over 20% of worldwide NIV issuances.  According to the National Travel and Tourism Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, China is expected to have 4.2 million visitors to the United States by 2021, becoming the United States’ largest source of overseas travelers, excluding Canada and Mexico. 

Challenges

It is important to note that as the Chinese government continues to develop its policy governing the travel and tourism sector, in which new policies, guidelines, and regulations may be imposed.  Key bilateral policy challenges include restrictions on foreign travel companies from directly selling outbound travel to Chinese citizens, limiting access of foreign owned global distribution systems (GDS) to the Chinese market, and preventing Chinese failure to abide by guidelines of the U.S.-China Bilateral Air Transport Agreement (“the Agreement”).   Given that the Chinese have not met their obligations under the Agreement, including making available to U.S. airlines commercially viable landing and take-off slot times at major Chinese airports, further expansion of opportunities under the Agreement still appear unlikely at this time.
 
Furthermore, any difficulties in the U.S.-China trade relationship may adversely impact Chinese travel to the United States.  At the time of writing, the RMB has weakened against the USD.  A devalued Chinese currency may decrease the purchasing power of potential overseas Chinese travelers who are the largest foreign traveler spenders in the U.S. market. 

Market Entry

With regard to long-term entry into the China market, travel and tourism organizations have two ways to enter the market.  The first is to establish a direct office in China.  To do this, the travel and tourism supplier should obtain a registration license from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.  The second method is to contract with a marketing/PR company to represent and/or promote their organization or destination.  The second method is the one that has been adopted by the majority of U.S. destinations.
 
Commercial Service China has staff dedicated to serve the tourism market in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang, and Wuhan.  BrandUSA now has four representative offices in China located in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.  The Commercial Service and BrandUSA operate collaboratively in China to organize and support U.S. pavilions at major travel trade shows around China, run broad-based marketing campaigns, and other tourism events and programs.  U.S. destinations and travel and tourism suppliers should consider working with the Commercial Service for their initial entry into the China outbound tourism market.
 
Trade Shows & Events
Beijing International Travel Mart
Beijing, China
September 4 – 5, 2019
 
Beijing: China Incentive Business Travel and Meeting Exhibition (MICE)
Beijing, China
August 28-29, 2019

Kunming: China International Travel Mart (CITM)
Kunming, China
November 15-17, 2019
 
Guangzhou: Guangzhou International Travel Fair
Guangzhou, China
March 1-3, 2020

Shanghai: ITB China
Shanghai, China
May 15-17, 2019 

Web Resources

Brand USA
Visit the USA 
U.S. Travel Association (USTA)
National Tour Association (NTA)
Commercial Service China Tourism Team
National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)
2016 China Market Profile for Travel and Tourism
NTTO 2016-2022
NTTO Inbound Data Page

U.S. Commercial Service Contact for Travel and Tourism Sector:
U.S. Consulate General WuhanJing Wang, Jing.Wang@trade.gov
T:  +86 27-8555-7791 x2808
M:  +86 186-7279-1637

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



China Travel and Tourism Trade Development and Promotion