2008-07-04 05:34:49 GMT 2008-07-04 13:34:49 (Beijing Time) China Daily
With the US a new destination for Chinese group tours, American tourism companies are maintaining "cautious optimism" on their future prospects.
While most in the industry look forward to growth in the number of Chinese tourists, they are also concerned about the high cost of holidays.
Compared with visits to Europe, travel to the US requires a longer trip and results in higher costs - particularly with oil prices continuing to soar.
Tour agencies in Los Angeles worry that attempts to offer holidays at low cost will impact quality. A manager for a travel agency in Los Angeles told the China News Agency that the average daily fee for each member of a Chinese tour group in the US is only about $70.
To reduce costs, the agency only takes Chinese tourists to free sites such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and the night scene in Las Vegas.
A tour of the Disneyland Park in California, for example, was removed from the schedule of a popular 10-day "Panorama US Tour" that includes both coasts because the park's tickets alone costs about $70.
Many tourism insiders believe different tours should be designed for different types of Chinese tourists.
Li Feng, manager of the Los Angeles branch of the China International Travel Service, said the company is considering developing more expensive high-quality tourism products to attract customers in the future.
First group to US
On June 17 more than 200 Chinese tourists took off from airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in the first group tour of the US. Each paid 20,000 yuan for the 10-day tour.
Yang Wei, a Beijing girl fresh from college, said she expects to see famous landmarks such as the US Capitol, the White House, the Pentagon and the Statue of Liberty.
"The group tour to the US has brought much convenience to the ordinary Chinese people," she said. "Otherwise I cannot imagine a young girl like me can get a visa to America so easily."
The US issued only student and business visas to Chinese in the past.
Chinese and US tourism authorities signed an agreement in December last year that allows travel to the US in tour groups.
Shao Qiwei, director of China's National Tourism Administration, said tourism promotes friendship and mutual understanding between the Chinese and American people.
"Not many Chinese people have been to the United States and vice versa," he said. "Group tours connect the two nations to bring about mutual benefits," Shao said.
He added that inclusion of the US on the list of China's outbound tourism destinations is the result of more than two years of negotiation between the two governments.
In the six months to come, residents from nine provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong will be able to travel to the US in tour groups.
"We will open the market wider by further negotiation," he said.
China's first group received a warm welcome from the US government and tourism industry.
The Capitol in Washington DC opened a special passage for Chinese guests. The US Department of Commerce invited them to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints US currency. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez gave a dinner in their honor on a passenger ship.