In response to President Obama’s announcement regarding Commerce Secretary Gary Locke‘s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to China, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, issued the following statement:
“The nomination of Gary Locke as the U.S. ambassador to China presents a tremendous opportunity to advance travel-related issues involving a lucrative export market to improve the American economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As Secretary of Commerce, he has been a strong advocate for improved travel facilitation and his support of the Travel Promotion Act demonstrates his keen understanding of the value of promoting the U.S. to travelers around the world. Among his top priorities must be to improve the visa process for potential Chinese visitors in order to make the U.S. more competitive in the $889 billion international travel market.
In 2009, the average Chinese traveler spent nearly $7,000 on American products and services while visiting our country – 72 percent more than the average spending in the United States by all other overseas travelers. Unfortunately, only less than three percent of the 30 million Chinese nationals who traveled outside of mainland China that year visited the United States.
According to our research, if the United States welcomed the same number of Chinese travelers as Western Europe did in 2009, the U.S. would generate $10 billion in additional traveler spending and support more than 76,000 new American jobs. According to Pierre Gervois, marketing expert on the Chinese outbound tourism issues, “The United States could easily get three to five million Chinese visitors every year with a smoother visa policy”.
A leading obstacle to maximizing Chinese visitors to the United States is that our consular resources in China are not keeping pace with the growth in demand. Wait times for nonimmigrant visa interview appointments in China skyrocketed from less than 30 days to nearly four months in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010.
Further complicating our visa issuance system is the fact that a Chinese national must apply for a new United States visa every year. Other foreign travelers to the United States can receive a 10-year multiple entry visa. “We look forward to working with the new ambassador and the Administration on these issues to maximize travel exports, create more American jobs and increase America’s competitiveness with China.”, Mr Dow added.