Roundup: U.S. business insiders find China’s tourism market more attractive due to wider opening-up

China is expected to be “a top travel destination by mid-2024,” and with its wider opening-up, people are “excited to go there,” said Carmen Mcleod Whitaker of Atlanta’s IHG, an attendee at the 2023 United States Tour Operators Association Annual Conference and Marketplace concluding on Wednesday. China is an up-and-coming destination that we expect to see really…

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) — U.S. business insiders who attended a five-day travel industry event here have seen greater opportunities from China’s tourism market in the near future as the country is introducing more opening-up measures on traveling, including new visa policies.

China is expected to be “a top travel destination by mid-2024,” and with its wider opening-up, people are “excited to go there,” said Carmen Mcleod Whitaker of Atlanta’s IHG, an attendee at the 2023 United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) Annual Conference and Marketplace concluding on Wednesday.

“Asia tours are big right now … China is an up-and-coming destination that we expect to see really nice recovery in 2024,” said Kirk Demeter, a tour operator of Asia Answers.

This year’s conference has witnessed in particular a national tourism promotion event named “Nihao! China” being held in Los Angeles, which brought together more than 800 guests from the 2023 USTOA Annual Conference and Marketplace.

Attending the event, Guo Shaochun, China’s consul general in Los Angeles, introduced to the guests China’s opening-up measures on traveling, including its new visa policies.

Mutual decisions reached by the presidents of the two countries at the summit in California last month would directly benefit the tourism industries of both countries, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures, among others, Guo said.

“Our cooperation in tourism has evolved from a mere exchange of tourism markets to a comprehensive industry-wide cooperation. China and the United States have formed an all-round and high-level cooperation pattern in the tourism industry,” he said.

Guo also introduced the latest optimization of China’s visa policies to the attendees, most of whom are tour operators, saying the continuing reform of the visa policies will be helpful for U.S. business insiders to design and develop more tour products specific to China.

“You are welcome to visit China, to experience its rich history and culture, witness its breathtaking natural landscapes, savor delicious Chinese cuisine, and enjoy the convenient transportation and other tourism services,” he said.

Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA, told Xinhua that he visited China twice and had some “amazing memories” of China, from seeing the Great Wall to tasting delicious food.

“The American people are very hopeful to visit China,” said Dale. “I totally agree with what a member of USTOA said: ‘People will never regret going to China.'”

“Tourism is all about bringing countries together and benefiting from cultural exchanges. When people have an opportunity to experience each other in person, they see we’re all the same — we are all human,” he said.

“Our clients are ready to go (to China). You must see the scope of China to believe it — it is one of the greatest civilizations in the world … And it has fast trains, great air connections, world-class hotels, and a wonderful cuisine that varies tremendously by region,” said Bob Drumm, CEO of one of America’s oldest tour companies, Alexander and Roberts.

Throughout the year, China and the United States have increased flight frequencies multiple times. Data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China showed that in the winter-spring flight season, the number of direct regular passenger flights between the two countries is expected to increase from 48 to 70 per week.

But tour operators like Martin Chan of Ritz Tours, one of the largest travel agencies handling tours to China from the United States since 1999, hope for more.

“All we are waiting for is more airline space — there’s currently not enough capability on flights to China to expand demand,” said Chan, who wished to send more U.S. tourists to China in the future. Enditem