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Chinese Leisure Tour Group

Some two-hundred-forty Chinese tourists visited Washington, D.C. in June as part of leisure group tour facilitated by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and China. The M-O-U, signed in December 2007, allows the U.S. and Chinese travel and tourism businesses to create and sell group leisure tours to Chinese travelers. It also opens China’s market to U.S. travel and tourism industries for the first time.

The tour group was led by Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration. “I feel warmly welcomed here,” said Mrs. Peng, one of the Chinese visitors. “I would bring back these good memories and advise my friends to visit America,” she said, after a four-day visit to Washington, D.C. “It is a pleasure to welcome the first Chinese Group Leisure Travelers to the United States,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. “Through a cooperative agreement with the China National Tourism Administration, new groups of Chinese tourists will come to discover America’s wonders and take advantage of our world class American products and services,” he said.

Secretary Gutierrez noted that “increased visitation from Chinese tourists will strengthen cultural and economic ties between our nations and greatly benefit U.S. travel and tourism industries, which last year employed eight-million-five-hundred-thousand Americans and achieved a travel trade surplus of more than seventeen-billion dollars.”

The number of visitors from China to the United States has increased steadily, doubling over the past ten years to three-hundred-ninety-seven-thousand in 2007. That number is forecasted to double again to seven-hundred-fifty-five-thousand by 2017. On average, Chinese citizens spend more money during their stay than visitors from other countries. Last year, total Chinese spending in the U.S. exceeded two and a half-billion dollars.

In 2007, international visitors that traveled to the United States set a record at fifty-six million, an increase of ten percent over 2006, and also spent a record one-hundred-twenty-two billion-two-hundred-million dollars while in the U.S.

The U.S. hopes that many more Chinese will discover America in the years to come.