Friend-Trips Across the Ocean

  • 来源:北京周报
  • 关键字:Friend-Trips,American visa
  • 发布时间:2016-05-26 11:53

  This month,Xu Xiaohui got her 10-year,multiple-entry visa to the United States and is now planning to make her first trip there in October.

  “It is a surprise,” the 30-year-old told Beijing Review as she stood at the gates of the United States Embassy in Beijing.“I was told it’s not easy for a single woman of my age to get an American visa.I didn’t expect to get it so smoothly.”

  Xu works in Beijing as an interior designer.The United States had not been on her travel list until November 2014,when it started to offer 10-year travel and business visas to Chinese citizens.

  “Before that,I didn‘t even try to get a visa from there as visa agents and many of my friends told me my application was likely to be rejected,” Xu said.“But when several of my friends got accepted,I thought I could also give it a try.”

  Hu Jianjun,a 60-year-old man from east China’s Shandong Province,also got his visa the same day.Hu came to Beijing with his family.His wife and son got the visa too.

  “We plan to join a travel group to visit the Yellowstone National Park [in Wyoming] as we have heard that the scenery there is marvelous,” Hu said.“As we have all got the 10-year visa,we can make a very long-term travel plan.”

  Market potential

  Since November 12,2014,China and the United States have extended reciprocal tourist and business visas for each other’s citizens from one to 10 years.Student visas have been extended from one to five years.

  This has witnessed a large increase in visa applications.A report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2015 said that since the extensions,more than 2.5 million Chinese have been issued U.S.visas,a 52.6 percent increase over 2014.

  In September 2015,when President Xi Jinping visited the United States,he announced that 2016 would be observed as the China-U.S.Tourism Year,giving another push to the burgeoning tourism market in both countries.

  On February 29,the U.S.Department of Commerce and China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) launched the China-U.S.Tourism Year in Beijing.The event brought together about 350 tourism industry professionals as well as national and provincial government leaders from the United States and China.

  In a message to the ceremony,Xi said he was looking forward to increased people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

  Li Jinzao,Director of CNTA,said that over 4.75 million people had traveled between China and the United States in 2015.The number is expected to increase to 5 million in 2016.

  “We are setting the stage for great growth in Chinese visitation to all areas of the United States in 2016 and beyond,” said Christopher Thompson,President and CEO of Brand USA,the company managing the campaign.

  Brand USA has created a website as an online resource center for the travel industry,including a calendar of events and marketing resources.

  According to statistics from the National Travel and Tourism Office of the Department of Commerce and Brand USA,China is the sixth largest tourist source market for the United States.

  “China could become the largest source market for long-haul travel into the United States within three years,” Thompson said.

  According to Shi Peihua,Director at the National Information Center in China,the volume of Chinese tourists is growing fast in three ways.Many people are traveling abroad with their children and many children are studying overseas.Chinese are also traveling abroad for marriage,and finally,many companies are paying for their staff’s overseas travel as a reward for good performance.

  Traveling all around

  Cities like New York,Washington,D.C.,San Francisco and Los Angeles used to be the main go-to destinations for Chinese tourists.

  “We can see Chinese travelers every day,” said Lou Xinyue,the New York-based director of the U.S.-China Entrepreneurs‘ Association.“We expect to see more people from China this year.And now,many Chinese cities are being advertised on the Times Square billboard.We are very proud of it.”

  However,travelers are exploring other cities in the United States as well—many of them off the beaten track.

  “Since President Xi announced the China-U.S.Tourism Year,we expect more Chinese tourists,” said Zhao Ying,working as a special consultant for the Governor of Alabama in the United States.In an interview with China News Service,Zhao said that the Alabama Tourism Bureau had begun to employ more Chinese in anticipation of more Chinese travelers.“It can create jobs for local Chinese,” Zhao added.

  Qiao Minghui,an independent Chinese traveler,has been to the United States more than 10 times.Qiao is now keen to visit places in Middle America.

  He went to Alabama because of the 1994 Hollywood movie Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks.“It is the hometown of Gump [the protagonist played by Hanks] and that movie is my favorite,” he said,explaining the impulse.

  Qiao loved Alabama at first sight.“The vastness and quietness is so different from New York or Los Angeles,” he said.“It also feels more genuine.The United States has many places with different flavors.”

  The same feeling also applies to China.Bill Johnson,an American living in Beijing for more than five years,always recommends his friends go to Yunnan first instead of Beijing or Shanghai.

  “People are more inclined to go to the big cities as the first stop in a fresh country; why not do it another way?” Johnson said.“Yunnan is my favorite place with its wonderful views and lovely food.I am sure it can be a good start for [a China] trip.”

  “Travel is the best way to explore the world,” said Zhou Xi,a student of the Beijing Jiaotong University.

  Zhou went to the United States on a study tour last year.He visited the top universities there,including Harvard,MIT,Yale and Stanford.The trip helped him decide to pursue higher education in the United States instead of job-hunting after graduation.

  “If we just passively receive the stories other people give us,it is hard to get a vivid picture,” he told Beijing Review.“It is only possible to truly experience a new place when one sets foot there.It is just as our wise ancestors have said: Traveling thousands of miles is better than reading thousands of books.”

  By Yuan Yuan

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