New 10-year visa for Chinese visitors in the U.S. will boost America’s travel and tourism sectors

A new visa extension for US and Chinese citizens is expected to boost US tourism and is being looked upon as a positive step in relations between the two super powers.

US President Barack Obama announced on Monday in Beijing that the US and China had agreed to a reciprocal 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen. Speaking during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama said the move would “benefit everyone”.

It will allow citizens of each country to travel between the two countries for up to 10 years on a single visa, putting China on level footing with other major trade partners like Brazil and several European countries. Travelers and students can currently receive one-year visas. Students will also now be able to obtain five-year visas. The visa extensions will start on Wednesday.

The change is expected to be a boon for the US economy, creating up to 440,000 American jobs by 2021 because increased tourism and business spurred by visits from more than 7 million Chinese would generate nearly $85 billion in revenue, according to a White House estimate.

Gervois magazine - The new travel magazine for millennials travelers in the United StatesLast year 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the US, contributing $21.1 billion to the economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs, according to a White House estimate.

The tourism industry accounted for 2.8 percent of US GDP and nearly 70 million international tourists spent $166 billion in the US in 2012, according to the US Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

“Where this will make the most impact is on the repeat traveler to the US from China,” said Evan Saunders, CEO of Attract China, a Boston and Beijing consultant that helps US businesses attract Chinese tourists.

He said many Chinese visitors who want to make multiple visits to the US won’t have to go through what can be a time-consuming process of renewing a visa every year.

“By 2018, Chinese tourists are expected to be the top overseas traveler to the US,” Saunders told China Daily.

What do US businesses have to do to take advantage of the projected influx of tourists?

“US businesses need to utilize the Internet and social media to engage the Chinese consumer,” said Saunders. “And they need to do it about six months before the Chinese tourist departs for the US.”Gervois Rating Banner 01

In 2012, Obama issued an executive order to ease the issuance of visas to visiting Chinese and to speed up the visa request process at China’s US consulates.

“This convinced hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors to choose the US as a leisure and shopping destination and knowing that an average Chinese visitor to the US spends an average of $7,000 per trip, the impact on the US economy could be measured in additional billions,” said Pierre Gervois, CEO and publisher of China Elite Focus Magazines.

The visa extension will bring explosive growth to the tourism industry, said Ralph Zhu, marketing director of US International Trip, a California-based travel agency which expects 300,000 customers from China this year.

“The biggest growth may come from Chinese students studying in the US,” he said, “A student may spend three or four years in the United States. Under the new visa policy, their family and friends won’t worry about renewing their visas and therefore are more likely to visit them every year.”

The Chinese account for about 28 percent of the foreign students studying in the US according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Door report.

The basic visa processing fee will remain the same, according to the US State Department.

Obama arrived in Beijing earlier for a week-long trip to the region and the APEC summit. Later he is scheduled for a state visit with Xi.

“The fact that President Obama announced these changes with what he termed the strong approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a major multi-lateral event like the APEC summit is a positive step,” Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution,told China Daily.

However, Lieberthal said the agreement’s effect on the relationship between the two super powers will probably be muted.

“It’s a huge and complicated relationship. Still it does suggest that both sides want to accomplish some positive things. The new visa requirements will provide a boost to travel and it will increase interaction between the two countries. That is always a good thing,” he said.

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this report.

Article by PAUL WELITZKIN, China Daily USA, New York

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In the first half of 2012, +46% of visa applications processed at U.S. Embassy for Chinese leisure travelers

President Barack Obama’s initiative to boost international tourism has pushed the US government to process a record 1 million visa applications from China so far during fiscal 2012.
“This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 43 percent over the same period last fiscal year, when we had processed just over 675,000 visa applications in China,” the State Department announced Thursday.
The US federal government’s fiscal year begins Oct 1 and ends Sept 30, so the department was referring to visa-processing totals through the end of the third quarter on June 30. As China Daily reported in April, through the first half of fiscal 2012, the State Department had processed 453,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens, up 46 percent from the first six months of fiscal 2011.
To reach the 1 million figure through the current fiscal year’s first nine months, department staff at the US Embassy in Beijing and the four consulates across China processed at least 547,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens in the three months from April 1 through June 30 – reflecting especially high demand for the busy summer travel season.
The State Department credited the opening of more windows for interviews, expansion of consular office space and better-maintained waiting areas for visa processing at the Beijing embassy and its consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang. Furthermore, it said the average waiting time for a visa interview has been reduced to about a week from the several months it used to take to get an appointment.
According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and the author of the Book How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists “This initiative is the direct result of a very successful lobbying campaign organized by the retail, travel, and hospitality industries that were the first-hand witnesses of the incredible purchasing power of Chinese tourists in the last few years. Roger Dow (president of the United States Travel Association) and Joe McInerney (president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association) have done a fantastic job of explaining to Washington the vital necessity to the American economy of finding ways to increase the number of Chinese leisure visitors.”
Dong Xue, a senior at Purdue University in Indiana, has just returned from China and it took her only a week to get a visa, even at the peak of summer. As a repeat traveler to the US, Dong was able to use a bank drop-off service to renew her visa. Without having to go for a personal interview, she submitted her paperwork through the bank and got her visa in five business days.
“As the Chengdu consulate (nearest to her hometown of Chongqing) was very busy then, their colleagues in Guangzhou processed my application,” Dong told China Daily. “It’s so fast. Usually it will take two weeks.”
The Obama administration, pointing out the value of travel and tourism to the US economy, introduced in January a strategy to make the United States the top destination for foreign visitors. More than 1 million jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market, Obama has said.
In 2011, about 1.18 million Chinese visited the United States and the number is expected to reach 2 million in 2015, according to the National Tourism Administration of China.