USD. Image: Flickr user 401(K) 2012.

Chinese Visitor Spending in the U.S. Climbs to $7.7 Billion


According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Chinese tourists have surpassed Germans as the World’s biggest-spending tourists. Chinese tourist visitor spending in the United States alone has increased 47% to $7.7 billion in one year from 2010-2011. One may ask, what is causing this dramatic increase?

First, the population in China has increased exponentially with a total population equaling more than North America, Russia and Europe combined. This increase has contributed to a rise in urbanization and created a fast growing economy accompanied by a swelling middle class with higher disposable incomes. According to an April 12, 2013 CNN article, “Chinese Travelers the World's Biggest Spenders”, an average Chinese traveler spends $1,230 per trip.

The Chinese government is also encouraging travel abroad, increasing the amount of soft power it carries, and is urging Chinese workers to use paid leave days which allows workers more flexibility. Foreign trips from China have increased from 10 million in 2000 to 83 million in 2012. It is forecasted by the UNWTO that by 2015, 100 million Chinese will travel abroad.

Another attribution to the rising visitor spending is in response to recent regulations which promote looser foreign travel restrictions. In 2007, the Chinese government made the United States an “approved destination”, which in turn caused an increase in American business advertising in China. Additionally, in February 2012, President Obama signed an executive order on visa reform, easing the visa process from China to the United States. An Economist article from January 21st, 2012, “Obama Moves to Simplify Visa Process” states that this new regulation offers an additional 40% of the Chinese tourist visa issuance and opens 100,000 more visa interview opportunities annually.

There has also been a shift in the typical visitor profile of Chinese tourists. Many inbound visitors have a major focus on shopping, which has transitioned from simply souvenir shopping to luxury items. These luxury goods are around 20-30% cheaper in the U.S. for Chinese citizens and therefore it is simply more cost effective to fly abroad to shop.

To this influx of visitors, the U.S. travel industry has adapted. The hotel industry, for example, has made changes to cater to their new market. According to an April 9th, 2013 Time article, “How the U.S. Travel Industry Is Adapting to a Growing Wave of Chinese Tourists”, hotel sales representatives are being taught key Chinese phrases, the number four has been taken off hotel doors as they symbolize bad luck and many rooms are now equipped with tea kettles, translated menus and “lucky fruit” such as tangerines and oranges. On March 31st, 2013, China International Airlines increased its number of flights from Beijing to New York from 7 to 11 times per week to accommodate the increase in interest to travel to the U.S. According to the U.S. Travel Association, Chinese total spending in 2011 supported 53,300 jobs—up 35% from 2010, creating quite an economic impact.

For more data on Chinese inbound/outbound visitor spending, click here.
For data on Taiwan, click here
For data on Japan, click here
For data on South Korea, click here
For data on India, click here
For data on ASEAN, click here
For data on Australia, click here