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The number of US-bound Chinese tourists, coveted for their huge spending power, has fallen for the first time in 15 years, dropping nearly 10 percent last year, compared to 2017.
Some 2.9 million travelers from China chose to go to the US in 2018, according to AP, which cited the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) data, which comes from US Customs forms. That’s 300,000 less than in 2017, the NTTO data shows.
Chinese tourism to the US has been on the rise since 2003. In 2017, the number of visitors from China was the fifth highest behind Canada, Mexico, Britain and Japan. However, the Chinese outpaced others with their sum total of travel exports for all purposes, including education. Last year, they spent $35.3 billion in the US – some 14 percent of the total $251.4 billion visitors spent last year.
The drop may be only temporary, due to China’s growing middle class. It is expected that Chinese tourism to the US will grow 2 percent in 2019, and will reach 4.1 million visitors in 2023, according to AP.
However, Chinese citizens have shown less interest in travelling to the US, as the trade spat between the two countries was building momentum in 2018, and it has only escalated this year.
The simmering row has also resulted in travel warnings from both sides. Last year, China issued a security advisory about the dangers of travelling to the US, warning about “frequent” cases of shootings and robberies. Washington responded with its own travel alert for China.
Both states issued other travel warnings in the beginning of this year. The new advisories cited risk of arbitrary detention and came after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada. The move provoked the ire of Beijing and was followed by arrests of Canadian citizens in China, widely seen in the West as a tit-for-tat response.