US rolls out welcome mat for first Chinese leisure travelers


Marking a first in the history of China and US relations, the arrival of the first batch of Chinese leisure travelers to the United States was celebrated via a welcome dinner in Washington, DC last week.

The welcome dinner was organized by the National Tour Association (NTA) and the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and attended by more than 260 Chinese travelers were in attendance, along with US and Chinese government and industry leaders. Guests included China National Tourism Administration Chairman Shao Qiwei, US Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Clark Randt, US Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, TIA president and CEO Roger Dow, NTA chairman and CEO Bob Hoelscher, and NTA president Lisa Simon.

eTN Chatroom: Discuss with readers from around the world:

“NTA is proud to join with TIA in hosting this monumental event as the US opens its doors to these new international leisure visitors,” said NTA chairman and CEO Bob Hoelscher. “NTA tour operators participating in the China Inbound Program are ready to assist Chinese travel agents, and the initial NTA list included more than 90 US-based tour operators.”

An agreement between the US and China, signed in December 2007, has made it possible for Chinese tour groups to visit the United States as leisure travelers, as opposed to the former rule that only allowed Chinese travelers to visit the US for business purposes only.

After their tour of Washington, DC and New York, the first batch of Chinese leisure travelers, consisting of six different groups, is scheduled to stop in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and San Francisco.

“This welcome event marks the beginning of a great time for the US,” said NTA president Lisa Simon, CTP. “We have the opportunity to boost the US economy and project a welcoming image to these visitors. NTA hopes each of these travelers will go back to China with an incredible travel experience and plan to return to the United States often.”

Simon added: ”NTA is the industry partner that has enabled the Memorandum of Understanding to be facilitated by implementing the list of tour operators approved to work with Chinese travel agents.”

Based on the agreement between US and Chinese authorities, China-organized tour groups to the US will follow the grading principles of time, area, and tourist. According to published reports, the first phase in implementing this action will be for six months, and the areas include Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong.