The number of Chinese visitors to the US has fallen further this year. Photo: YouTube.

The tourism industry in the United States is in a bit of a pinch as the number of tourists coming from China has dropped.

The New York Times has said this is disturbing news for the travel sector. Tori Barnes, the executive vice-president of public affairs and policy at the US Travel Association, was quoted as saying Chinese tourists are crucial because they spend an average of US$6,700 during visits to the US – which is about 50% higher than visitors from other countries.

Barnes said that tourists help reduce the trade deficit as the service industry acts as an export, a very important export.

The report indicated that the number of Chinese tourists visiting the United States dropped from 3.2 million in 2017 to 2.9 million in 2018.

Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, said the number of Chinese visitors is highly likely to fall even further this year. “If you look at the numbers from the previous decade, the number of Chinese tourists had an average annual growth rate of 23% before it stopped in 2018 and started to decrease.”

Worst-case scenario

A report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated that the “worst-case scenario” was a 50% decline in Chinese tourists visiting the United States, meaning the industry could suffer a loss of up to US$18 billion.

President and CEO of Sun Hill Properties, Mark D Davis, said his company – known for projects such as the Hilton Los Angeles and Universal Studios – saw improving business from Chinese visitors throughout 2017 but started to see a decline last year and that has deepened this year.

Davis said the overall message sent by the United States may seem unfriendly to some, and it made people worry. Sales to Chinese tourists had gone down in niche industries in the tourism sector as well.

Ren Schiffman, an owner of high-end jewelry retailer Shreve & Co, said his company started doing business with Chinese travel groups in 2009, which then propelled his company. A few years ago coaches from Chinese tour groups regularly sent 20 to 30 passengers to his shop in San Francisco but the coaches have disappeared since then.

“The wave they brought was immense but has reached its peak already. We don’t see them on the streets like we used to.”

This article was first published on Can Kao Xiao Xi. It was reprinted on and translated by Kamaran Malik.

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