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Global Times: China welcomes US tourists to experience the real China: Xi

2024/5/28 10:46:53

BEIJING, May 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 22 extended a warm welcome to US tourists to travel to China, meet Chinese friends, experience Chinese culture, visit beautiful landscapes and experience the real China, in a congratulatory message  to the 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit held in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

 The summit, a crucial platform for officials and industry players from both countries to promote cooperation in the tourism sector, convened for the first time since 2019, is adding to the increased interactions between the world's two biggest economies as they seek to stabilize bilateral ties. The event is set to boost bilateral tourism cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, officials and industry players said. 

Under the theme of "Expanding China-US Travel and Tourism and People-to-people Exchanges," the summit officially kicked off in Xi'an on May 22 with about 400 representatives from the two countries participating. Highlighting the increased enthusiasm among Chinese and US tourism industry players to boost cooperation, the number of participants this year is triple that of the last summit in 2019, according to official data.

Warm welcome

In the message to the summit, Xi stressed that tourism is an important bridge for exchanges and mutual understanding between the people of China and the US, according to the Xinhua News Agency. "We warmly welcome American tourists to travel to China, meet Chinese friends, experience Chinese culture, visit beautiful landscapes and experience the real China," Xi said.

It is hoped that all walks of life in the two countries will take this summit as an opportunity to have in-depth exchanges, build consensus and take active actions to promote personnel exchanges through tourism cooperation, continue the China-US friendship with cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and help the San Francisco vision turn into reality, Xi said.

US President Joe Biden also sent a letter to the summit, saying that "this annual event plays a critical role in harnessing power of travel and tourism to strengthen important ties between our peoples." He also said that "the US welcomes the people of China to discover our cities, learn about our history and engage with our people in destinations across the country."

Enthusiasm for boosting cultural and people-to-people exchanges is on vivid display at the summit in Xi'an. Students from Brigham Young University sang the Chinese song "Jasmine," while students from Shaanxi performed the song "Moon River" - both songs are familiar to the people of the two countries.

"Chinese kids can sing American songs so well and it is done in such a fine style," Rowena E Minott, CEO of Unlimited Connections, a Florida-based travel agency, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday, adding that she was impressed about Chinese city Xi'an and its rich culture like the Tang Dynasty and the world-known terracotta warriors.

"I could not tell you how good it is to be back," Todd Davidson, board chair of Brand USA, a co-organizer of the summit, said in a speech on Wednesday. "The summit is especially full of hope and optimism for me."

The US is expecting rapid increases in Chinese visitor numbers to the US, a major source of tourism revenue for the country. "According to our latest forecast, we anticipate that Chinese visitation to the US will increase 150 percent from 2023 to 2025. That's 4.7 times faster than the rise in overall overseas visitations to the US during this time," Grant Harris, assistant secretary for industry and analysis of the US Department of Commerce, said at the summit. 

With joint efforts to further boost tourism cooperation, industry players also expect a rise in trips. On Chinese booking platform Tongcheng Travel, Chinese tourist bookings to the US surged by 200 percent in the first five months of 2024, with the number jumping 247 percent since the start of May. Demand is expected to further rise with further resumption of China-US flight routes and opening of new routes, the company told the Global Times on Wednesday.

While Chinese and US industry players have high hopes for growth in tourism cooperation, Chinese officials and experts urged Washington to remove obstacles to travel, including visa restrictions on Chinese nationals traveling to the US.

Facilitating tourism and cultural exchanges between the two nations results in win-win cooperation with high reciprocity, which will not only foster economic gains for both sides, but also help dispel misunderstandings amid grave global challenges, Xin Qiang, a deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Xin added that if the US further resumes flights, relaxes visa policies and adopts a positive attitude, it would not only help boost tourism but also set a positive example for other countries to follow.

On its part, China has recently taken effective steps to simplify visa applications for foreigners traveling to China and promote the facilitation of payments for foreigners, Zhang Zheng, deputy minister of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said at the summit.

Zhou Mi, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that there is still great willingness among the people in both countries and massive potential for cooperation in areas such as tourism.

"Although the US has intensified its competition with China, there are complementary demands in both markets. As the bilateral economic link becomes more intertwined, the potential for cooperation increases," Zhou told the Global Times, adding that such a huge demand and potential could prompt policy shifts from Washington in certain areas.

In the tourism sector, for example, US industry relies heavily on Chinese visitors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the US welcomed nearly 3 million Chinese visitors annually, who spent $33 billion while visiting the country. Restoring Chinese visitation to 2019 levels would add over 50,000 direct American jobs. Including indirect jobs and students studying in the US, that number increases to an estimated 400,000 American jobs, according to the International Trade Administration under the US Department of Commerce.