In early January 2015, online travel hub Travelzoo published its annual survey, reaching out to 4,300 members across the Asia Pacific. It discovered that among its Mainland China members, Japan was the top country to visit in 2015 with 40% of the vote. Despite political tensions between China and Japan, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan rose 80% in 2014. The recent devaluation of the yen and Japan’s relaxed visa rules serve as the main incentives for projected continued growth this year. On January 7, 2015, the Japanese Foreign Ministry stated that high-income tourists from China will be able to apply for multiple-entry visas that will be valid for 5 years and allow unrestricted travel throughout Japan.
The United States ranked second in Travelzoo’s survey, garnering 31% of the vote as a destination that Chinese tourists hope to visit in 2015.There is hope that easier visa rules put forward in November 2014 by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping will have a similar effect on increasing Chinese tourism in the United States as it did in Japan. By 2021, it is predicted that 7.3 million Chinese tourists will have visited the United States, creating 440,000 jobs and contributing annual revenues of $85 billion. Forms of tourism that go beyond simply shopping and dining have become popular among Chinese tourists who are looking for more cultural experiences on their trips.
Aside from visa reforms, there are other ways that the United States could increase its popularity with Chinese tourists. In October 2014, the China Tourism Academy ranked the United States as its third top destination for travel. Issues Chinese tourists cited as areas in which the US tourism and hospitality industry could improve included, “tourist products, service quality and Chinese-language information services.” Even with these critiques, the United States still attracted 97.3 million Chinese tourists in 2013 and was projected to attract 115 million by the end of 2014.
Sarah Batiuk is the Event Coordinator and a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.