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: 7/25/2017

Overview
China is rapidly becoming one of the most important outbound tourism markets in the world. According to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Chinese outbound travelers reached 120 million in 2015, an increase of 5 million travelers from 2014.

The United States is an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers. In 2015, China ranked as the 5th largest international market (and 3rd largest overseas market) for the United States.   While final 2016 data is not yet available, an estimated 3 million Chinese (excluding Hong Kong) visited the U.S. in 2016, constituting a 16 percent increase over 2015.

The United States welcomed a record 2.59 million visitors from China in 2015, and received more than $30 billion in spending from Chinese tourists on travel and tourism related goods and services.  Travel exports from Chinese visitors to the United States set a record in 2015.  China is the largest travel export market for the  U.S.  The below charts illustrate how Chinese travelers to the U.S. compared among other top markets in 2015 and how their spending compared to their counterparts, respectively.

Top International Arrivals to the U.S. in 2014 vs 2015

Rank

Region/Country of Residence

2014r

2015p

%Change (2015/2014)

 

Total Arrivals (1) (2)

75,021,716

77,510,282

3%

 

North America (3)

40,083,509

39,118,350

-2%

1

Canada

23,013,691

20,704,701

-10%

 

Canada Air (2)

8,243,286

7,966,040

-3%

2

Mexico (2)

17,069,818

18,413,649

8%

 

Mexico Air (2) (4)

2,486,381

2,640,481

6%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overseas (2) (5) (6)

34,938,207

38,391,932

10%

3

United Kingdom (2)

4,149,129

4,900,823

18%

4

Japan

3,620,224

3,758,297

4%

5

China (excl HK) (2)

2,189,781

2,591,333

18%

6

Germany (2)

2,056,492

2,271,820

10%

7

Brazil

2,263,996

2,218,883

-2%

8

South Korea (2)

1,459,938

1,764,871

21%

9

France (2)

1,658,345

1,752,611

6%

10

Australia (2)

1,304,172

1,450,113

11%


Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, National Travel and Tourism Office: Statistics Canada and Banco de Mexico/Secretaria de Turismo (Mexico).
“Total Arrivals” is the sum of Canada, Mexico and all Overseas.
Record level of visits in 2015.
“North America” includes Canada and Mexico only.
“Mexico Air” data based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security I-94 arrival records.
“Overseas” excludes Canada and Mexico.
2015P changes (excluding Canada and Mexico) reflect a combination of additional records counted in 2015 and market conditions.
R = Revised data.
P = Preliminary data.
Released: June 2016
Spending to and within the U.S. (2015)
Total $246.2 billion USD

2015 Travel Exports all purposes (including education) by Country

Rank

Country of Residence

2015

1

China

$30.2 billion

2

Canada

$22.7 billion

3

Mexico

$19.7 billion

4

Japan

$17.2 billion

5

U.K.

$16.2 billion

6

Brazil

$14.4 billion

7

India
 

$11.8 billion

8

Australia
 

$9.3 billion

9

Germany

$8.9 billion

10

S. Korea

$8.1 billion

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

Spending Trends by Chinese Visitors (Exports)                       

 $ U.S. Dollar Millions

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013r

2014

2015

Change
2015/2008

Total Travel and Tourism Exports2

$6,086

$6,869

$10,249

$13,925

$18,152

$21,624

$26,317

$30,178

$24,092

Travel Receipts

$5,189

$6,022

$8,942

$11,877

$15,864

$19,244

$23,725

$27,728

$22,539

Education Receipts

$2,377

$3,049

$4,014

$5,123

$6,498

$8,076

$9,734

$11,429

$9,052

Other Business/Personal

$2,594

$2,926

$4,874

$6,696

$9,306

$11,093

$13,906

$16,209

$13,615

Health/Border/Seasonal

$218

$47

$54

$58

$60

$75

$85

$90

-$128

Passenger Fare Receipts

$897

$847

$1,307

$2,048

$2,288

$2,380

$2,592

$2,450

$1,553

% Change in Total Exports

27%

13%

49%

36%

30%

19%

22%

15%

396%

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, 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 leisure activities, MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions), as well as foreign independent travel. While group tours to well-known American destinations are still preeminent, more Chinese travelers are becoming interested in venturing off the beaten path to visit places of natural beauty, and of cultural and, historical significance.

2016 U.S. – China Tourism Year
The U.S. China Tourism Year was a strategic deliverable during the Obama-Xi Summit meeting in Washington D.C. in September 2015. The initiative aimed to increase travel and tourism between the two countries by enhancing the traveler’s experience, increasing the traveler’s cultural understanding, and expanding the traveler’s appreciation of natural landscapes in each other’s countries.

From the U.S. perspective, the Tourism Year offered the chance to build on the current double-digit growth in arrivals from China, expanding the United States' share of the nearly 100 million Chinese visitors traveling each year. The Tourism Year provided both  countries many opportunities and achieved significant milestones over the course of the year, including the launch event held in Beijing in February 2016 and the closing event held in Washington D.C. in November 2016. Other significant events during the U.S.-China Tourism Year included one thousand U.S. tourists visiting the Great Wall; the China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit; and five thousand Chinese  tourists visiting Washington D.C. in November 2016 to coincide with the Tourism Year closing event.

Opportunities
While the 2.59 million visitors from China in 2015 represented substantial growth from an already significant number of travelers,  this figure represents about 2% of the 120 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, 15 U.S. cities are connected by non-stop flights to Chinese cities. The top three states in inbound Chinese visitors are California, New York, and Hawaii with 1.0 million, 800 thousand, and 300 thousand Chinese visitors respectively per year.

U.S. Gateway Cities with Direct Flights from China

Los Angeles

San Francisco

New York

Seattle

Dallas

Detroit

Chicago

Boston

Washington, D.C.

Houston

San Jose

Honolulu

Guam

Saipan

Las Vegas

 
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.

As part of this shift, and as Chinese visitors are able to afford increasing amounts of international travel (sometimes three to four trips abroad per year), there is a growing demand for travel to U.S. destinations outside the most frequented gateways, or first-trip cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  Such trends translate to increased travel service opportunities for those U.S. destinations historically less frequented by Chinese visitors. These less frequented destinations should that take the time to understand the Chinese traveler and endeavor to 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 1.6 people.  Travelers visit an average of 1.8 states and approximately 67% visit friends and family during their stay in the U.S. The average length of trip is seven to fourteen days, and  spending averages $7,566 per traveler. About 41% 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 percent increase versus the previous 12 month period. Chinese travelers’ demand for visas continues to be strong.  Mission China issued over 2.1 million non-immigrant visas (NIV) to Chinese travelers in fiscal year 2016.  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 5.7 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 this sector and that new policies, guidelines, and regulations may be imposed.  Key bilateral policy challenges include restricting foreign travel companies from directly selling outbound travel to Chinese citizens; opening China’s market to foreign owned global distribution systems (GDS); and the renegotiation of the U.S.-China bilateral air services agreement. The current air services agreement caps weekly flights between the U.S. and China at 180 for Chinese carriers and 160 for U.S. carriers. Given the rapid growth in flights between the U.S. and China, the airlift allowed under the current agreement will reach maximum capacity in the near future.
 
Market Entry
In 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 China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). The second method is to contract with a marketing/PR company to represent and/or promote your organization or destination. The second method is the one that has been adopted by the majority of U.S. destinations.

The Commercial Service 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.  In general, U.S. destinations and travel and tourism suppliers should consider working with the Commercial Service for their initial entry into the China tourism market.
 
Trade Shows & Events
Beijing International Travel Mart (September 14 – 16, 2017)
 
Beijing: China Incentive Business Travel and Meeting Exhibition (MICE) (August 23-24, 2017)

Shanghai: China International Travel Mart (CITM) (November, 2018)
 
Shanghai: ITB China (May, 2018)

Guangzhou: Guangzhou International Travel Fair (March 1-3, 2018) 
 
Xiamen: Xiamen Tourism Expo (May  2018)
 
Web Resources
Brand USA
Visit the USA
U.S. Travel Association (USTA)
National Tour Association (NTA)
China National Tourism Administration (Chinese regulatory agency, the U.S. does not have an equivalent bureau)
Commercial Service China Tourism Team
National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)
2015 China Market Profile for Travel and Tourism
NTTO 2015-2020 Forecast
NTTO Inbound Data Page
 
U.S. Commercial Service Contact for Travel and Tourism Sector
Jing Wang, Jing.Wang@trade.gov
U.S. Consulate General Wuhan
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