A record-breaking group of nearly 7,000 Chinese visitors began gathering in California this week, an example of what an analyst called "Chinese travelers' growing interest in the United States as a tourist destination despite political differences".
Perfect (China) Co, a direct-marketing company that sells health food and household and beauty products, is bringing the huge group to Orange County for an eight-day trip, setting a new record as the largest single group of Chinese ever to visit the United States.
Li Haidong, a US studies researcher at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, said the size of the delegation is indicative of how interested Chinese travelers are in the US despite the fact that the two governments constantly seem at odds on bilateral and global issues.
"In a sense, it shows that bilateral relations are maturing under the backdrop of market-driven globalization," Li said. "The visitors will spend money, which contributes to the American economy."
The majority of the group are top-tier direct-marketing professionals from various companies in China. Since Wednesday, the visitors have been arriving from Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Hong Kong on more than 70 flights.
The visitors' main conference and banquet will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center starting on Tuesday, though they will also get in plenty of shopping and sightseeing. The trip will take them not just to Anaheim but also Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and other destinations on the West Coast.
The group's event will generate an estimated $85 million for the Anaheim area, and the 7,000 attendees will fill 13,000 to 14,000 hotel room nights at more than 30 area hotels.
"We are ready to show our Chinese friends the real California lifestyle here in Orange County," Ed Fuller, CEO of the Orange County Visitors Association, told China Daily in an interview.
"We know California is the No 1 destination for Chinese tourists, and this year they will see it and fall love with it," Fuller said.
The ease of applying for US visas in the past two years has encouraged more Chinese to come to the country. The wait time for a visa in China on average has been cut to under five days on average from as many as 100 days.
An estimated 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the US in 2013, and that number is expected to grow by 21 percent to 2.1 million this year.
According to the US Travel Association, Chinese visitors to the US spent some $8.8 billion in 2012, averaging about $6,000 per person.
Li said developing the Sino-US relationship in a healthy, stable way hinges on improving understanding between the two countries.
"It is good to see that a people-to-people exchange between Beijing and Washington does not swing to the rhythm of politics," he said.
As co-host of the convention, the CITS International M.I.C.E. (Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition) Co, the China-based enterprise, will handle bus transportation to take the visitors to major attractions.
Zheng Lijuan, general manager of the company, said, "As the largest tourism enterprise in China, CITS considers this largest Chinese MICE Group to Orange County an opportunity to increase interest in travel to the US."
Travel and tourism were responsible for $1.5 trillion in economic activity across the US last year, supporting 8 million jobs, US President Barack Obama said on Thursday in a speech he gave in New York.
He also signed a presidential memorandum giving Cabinet secretaries for Homeland Security and Commerce four months to come up with a plan to streamline the entry process for foreign visitors in order to reduce their wait time.
Chen Weihua in Washington contributed to this story.
(Source: China Daily)
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