The Chinese government has announced a series of initiatives aimed at increasing travel among its citizens. In a recently released document, the government emphasized the importance of travel as an avenue to enhance both the nation’s economy as well as individuals’ quality of life. “Outlines of the Chinese Citizens’ Travel Initiatives 2013–2020,” released only in Chinese, details plans for improving China’s travel and tourism infrastructure and offering incentives to travel. Among the specific steps the government will take are:
building or expanding airports, highways, hotels and attractions.
increasing the amount of paid leave for workers.
increasing tax deductions for company incentive and conference travel.
allowing schools to expand current travel windows beyond summer and winter breaks.
Through October of last year, the number of Chinese visitors to the United States was up 37 percent from 2011. In light of this surge, the prospect of more Chinese travelers is compelling for tourism professionals.
“This news has extraordinary implications for the North American travel industry,” said Lisa Simon, president of NTA. “China’s U.S. arrivals have increased dramatically since 2008, so the projection of even more visitors confirms what NTA has been saying to its members: Take steps now to capitalize on this wave of tourists.”
The Chinese government is making travel a clear priority, said Haybina Hao, NTA’s director of international development. “Chinese leaders recognize that travel expands the horizons of its citizens, and when people see more of the world, they can return to China inspired and better prepared to be creative entrepreneurs,” Hao said.
“The NTA has done a remarkable work with Chinese travel agents to help them to better understand the U.S. destinations.” said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, who publishes magazines in Chinese language for affluent Chinese travelers to the United States such as Luxury Hotels of America or VIP Golf USA. Pierre Gervois added “Don’t forget that the most affluent segment of Chinese travelers to the U.S. don’t rely on their travel agents to build their leisure trip to the U.S., but more on influential luxury travel publications and recommendations of VIP travel clubs. It’s important for U.S. destinations and hotels to talk directly to their future Chinese guests through these selected channels”
The plan calls for a 10 percent increase in domestic and international travel during 2013. It also emphasizes sustainable tourism.
Hao predicts an upsurge in many types of outbound travelers to the United States. “We’ll see student groups coming not just for summer camps or winter holidays but during the regular school year,” she said. “We’ll also see more travelers coming to attend business conventions and study tours, as well as more families and seniors groups.”
NTA has been heavily involved in the China outbound market since 2008, when the governments of the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding allowing Chinese leisure travelers to visit the United States in group tours. NTA launched its China Inbound Program that year and has since maintained a list of U.S. tour operators registered to handle inbound Chinese group travelers. And next month, Hao will be in Beijing for the China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market, where NTA is partnering with Brand USA to present the USA Pavilion.
China’s latest plan to further increase travel is a call to action, said Hao. “These initiatives will change China and will reshape our industry if we can grab the opportunity,” she said. “Chinese travel agencies are working now to identify more products and American partners, so this is a perfect time to attend COTTM to present the Chinese trade what the U.S. has to offer.”
This summer, NTA will conduct the second China Market Forum during Contact, the association’s tour operator event, which will be held on Hawai‘i, the Big Island, Aug. 15–17. NTA and Hao also provide customized workshops and strategy sessions for destination marketing organizations and tourism professionals interested in exploring the Chinese market.