May 30, 2024
Travel & Tourism

Recovery in Chinese Tourism to the U.S. Is Happening – But It’s Lagging Other Countries

Recovery in Chinese Tourism to the U.S. Is Happening – But It’s Lagging Other Countries

The U.S. travel industry is on the path to a full recovery in Chinese and Japanese tourism by 2026, a year ahead of previous forecasts, as per the latest annual forecast from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. However, while optimism prevails, it’s notable that both China and Japan are lagging behind other source markets, with the office predicting a full recovery in international travel to the U.S. by 2025.

Current State of Recovery

The recovery trajectory of Chinese and Japanese tourism stands in contrast to other source markets. David Huether, deputy director for the National Travel and Tourism Office, highlighted during a webinar that China and Japan are expected to surpass 2019 levels but with a delay of one year compared to other markets. Notably, both countries began to show signs of recovery in 2023, coinciding with their reopening to international travel. Japanese visitation surged by 154%, while Chinese visitation saw a staggering 190% increase in 2023.

Factors Influencing Recovery

Huether attributed the slower recovery in China to factors such as its weakened economy and flight restrictions. The ongoing war in Ukraine and geopolitical tensions further hinder the restoration of flights. Air connectivity between China and the U.S. remains at only 25% of pre-pandemic levels, according to Jackie Ennis, vice president of global trade development at Brand USA. Moreover, obtaining approval for flights from the U.S. government has been sluggish, complicating route development.

Barriers to Chinese Tourism

China’s weakened economy and stringent flight restrictions continue to impede travel to the U.S. The conflict in Ukraine and geopolitical tensions exacerbate these challenges. Ennis highlighted the slow pace of flight approvals by the U.S. government, which adds another layer of complexity to route development.

Japanese Traveler Trends

The lack of direct air connectivity between China and the U.S. has resulted in increased airfares for Japanese travelers. Ennis noted that many Chinese tourists opt to fly through Tokyo, Seoul, or Taipei, driving up airfares for Japanese travelers. Additionally, Japanese travelers exhibit a reluctance to visit the U.S. immediately post-pandemic, compounded by the significant cost factor.

Brand USA’s Perspective

Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson previously emphasized the importance of Chinese tourism, citing their substantial spending in the U.S. before the pandemic. However, current challenges, including flight restrictions and geopolitical tensions, hinder the realization of pre-pandemic levels of Chinese tourism.

Industry Response

The aviation industry has urged the U.S. government to pause the addition of more passenger flights between China and the U.S. to address rising airfares and other challenges. Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta highlighted the need for streamlined flight approval processes to facilitate route development and bolster tourism recovery.

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