Chinese travel to the U.S. fell 5.7% in 2018 to 2.9 million visitors, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. This is the first time since 2003 that Chinese travel to the U.S. slipped from the prior year.
Although many reports are blaming the trade tensions between the two countries for the decline, the rate of growth for inbound travel to the U.S. from China has been slowing for a few years.
The US Travel Association in March said:
“After seven years of double-digit growth—12 years if we exclude the 2009 recession—visitations from China to the U.S. grew by a mere 4% in 2017, and the outlook for the near-term assumes a further slowdown in growth. Despite the increase in Chinese residents who hold passports, political factors such as ongoing trade tensions between the two countries and official statements from Chinese government officials dissuading travel to the U.S. likely play a role in the significant slowdown.”
Despite the slowdown, China remains the third-largest source of overseas travel to the United States, attracting 3.2 million visitors in 2017, and accounting for 8.2% of overseas travel to the U.S., said the Association.
In a comment from the group this week, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes, said:
“The irony is that travel exports have been the greatest success story of our trade relationship with China, generating a $30 billion surplus and accounting for 19% of all our exports to that country in 2017.
“The Chinese visit the U.S. in strong numbers, and they spend an average of $6,700 per trip—about 50% more than the average international visitor.
“While our commercial and security relationships with China are certainly complicated, it is an undeniable fact that Chinese travel to the U.S. has been a huge win for the U.S. economy and jobs, and there are warning signs that advantage is beginning to erode.”
An article in an Asia-based publication warned that the U.S. tourism industry must do more to keep up with changing needs of Chinese travelers.