U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez today will welcome the inaugural Chinese leisure tour group of more than 200 Chinese visitors to the United States as result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both countries at the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in December of 2007. The MOU will boost the U.S. travel and tourism industry, an engine of economic growth in the United States. The MOU allows U.S. and Chinese travel and tourism businesses to create and sell group leisure tours to Chinese travelers, opening China’s growing market to U.S. travel and tourism industries for the first time. Shao Qiwei, Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), led the 240-person tour group to Washington, D.C.
“It is a pleasure to welcome the first Chinese Group Leisure Travelers to the United States,” Gutierrez said. “Through a cooperative agreement with the China National Tourism Administration, new groups of Chinese tourists will come discover America’s wonders and take advantage of our world class American products and services. Increased visitation from Chinese tourists will strengthen cultural and economic ties between our nations and greatly benefit U.S. travel and tourism industries, which last year employed 8.5 million Americans and achieved a travel trade surplus of more than $17 billion.”
U.S. Department of Commerce statistics show a steady increase in visitors from China to the United States, doubling over the past ten years to 397,000. That number is forecast to double again to 755,000 by 2017, according to Tourism Economics, a private-sector economic and market research firm. On average, Chinese citizens spend more during their stay than visitors from other countries. Last year, total Chinese spending in the United States exceeded $2.5 billion.
In 2007, international visitors that traveled to the United States set a record at 56 million, an increase of 10 percent over 2006, and also spent a record $122.2 billion while in the United States.
Secretary Gutierrez and CNTA Chairman Shao signed The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the United States of America to Facilitate Outbound Tourist Group Travel from China to the United States on December 11, 2007, in Beijing, China, during the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).