Monday, 7 October 2013

Shutdown disappoints a lot of Chinese visitors

Shut down disappoints a lot of Chinese visitors

By Michelle Baran

The U.S. government’s partial shut down this week coincided with a heightened period of inbound travel from China, resulting in disappointment for visitors encountering closed national parks, monuments and museums.

“Many Chinese visitors have saved for years to take the trip of a lifetime to our country. They wanted to see Yellowstone, the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon. But they’re seeing none of it. They are extremely frustrated and confused by U.S. politics,” Haybina Hao, director of international development for the National Tour Association, said in a statement. 

NTA oversees the China Inbound Program, which facilitates inbound leisure travel to the U.S. from China through a list of approved U.S. ground operators. 

The U.S. had been named one of the top destinations for Chinese travellers  the fastest-growing tourism demographic into the U.S. 

The U.S. government’s partial shut down coincided with Golden Week, a period designated by the Chinese government as a time for its citizens to travel.

The shut down meant tour operators had to reroute groups to alternative destinations, and in the process many operators had to cancel and rebook hotels and make new transportation arrangements.

“I had a group of 25 Chinese visitors who planned to visit Yellowstone this week, but they cannot get in,” said Sonny Sang of Los Angeles-based ACC America China Connection, a member of NTA’s China Inbound Program. 

“I rerouted them to another destination, but I’ll lose $10,000 on this group. And I have another group of 22 arriving on Sunday to see Yellowstone. The financial consequences are unbearable for me as a small tour operator.”

Hao said one tour operator has more than 20 groups traveling in the U.S. this week. 

Neil Amrine, owner of Guide Service of Washington, said, “The biggest disappointment is the Smithsonian being closed, but we’re coming up with other solutions.”

Amrine revised the itinerary for a group of Chinese travelers this week by adding privately run attractions and finding alternative viewing sites of popular monuments. 

“They weren’t thrilled at first, but I think they’ll leave happy,” he said.

With destinations worldwide competing to attract Chinese travelers, Hao said that the shutdown will hurt U.S. travel companies investing in the Chinese inbound market.

In 2012, Chinese visitation to the U.S. increased 41% over 2011, and spending by Chinese travelers rose 19%, according to the Commerce Department.