Chinese celebrity Gao Yuanyuan in a campaign promoting California to Chinese travelers. (Visit California)
If luxury retailers and hotels thought that business from Chinese tourists was already booming, they’re in for even more good news: Chinese arrivals will surge by 139 percent to 2.5 million visitors in the next five years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In a new paper released this week, the department’s National Travel and Tourism Office predicts that China will shoot from its current status as the United States’ seventh-highest source country for tourism to the fourth highest by 2018. Since the United States saw 1.8 million tourist arrivals in 2013, China is expected to provide the second-largest number of additional visitors behind Canada during that time period, accounting for 18 percent of total tourism growth.
The growth rate is expected to get larger each year during these years. For 2014, the department forecasts 21 percent growth in Chinese tourist numbers. Chinese visitor rates have been surging since the United States and China signed a memorandum allowing Chinese tour groups to visit in 2007, with a massive increase since the 493,000 Chinese tourists that visited in 2008.
From the west coast to the east, luxury hoteliers and retailers have already been scrambling to accommodate Chinese visitors in response to this influx. Malls, boutiques, and department stores have been hiring Mandarin-speaking staff, introducing Chinese payment methods, and celebrating Chinese holidays in order to appeal to this luxury-loving group of travelers. Meanwhile, U.S. hotels have also been increasing their numbers of Chinese-speaking staff, and many now provide special amenities like tea kettles, Chinese food, and slippers to make Chinese guests feel more at home. Last year, California's tourism bureau enlisted actress Gao Yuanyuan to encourage Chinese travelers to make the journey across the Pacific.