Chinese tourists look west

Chinese tourists look west

With growing incomes and more vacation time, an increasing number of Chinese travelers are choosing to visit the US and Europe. 

Traveling abroad has become a regular part of Zheng Wei's schedule every year.

Zheng, 36, who works at a financial company in Beijing, recently took a trip to Orlando, New York, Washington, Niagara Falls and Boston.

"I was attracted by the US landscape sceneries, which are very different from China's, and clothes, shoes and healthcare products there were much cheaper, with assured quality," Zheng says.

Zheng is just one of a growing number of Chinese who are choosing the US as a tourism destination. He's also visited Munich, Milan, Florence and other European cities.

There has been a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the US in recent years, while the European tourism market has maintained relatively slower growth. Trips to Europe, however, remain the most common booking at large travel agencies, Diao Shuang, general manager of the China CYTS Tours Holding Co's European department, told the Beijing News.

More than 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the US last year, a threefold increase compared to five years ago, according to the US Department of Commerce.

The tourism market capacity of Europe and the US is about the same, according to Diao. The rising income and increasing number of Chinese workers receiving paid annual leave are allowing more people from the mainland to travel abroad.

"It took one or two months' worth of my salary to travel around the US for almost two weeks, and it's well within my price range," says Zheng Wei.

Employees at Zheng's company are required to take their annual leave, giving him the luxury of more free time.

The US interstate highway system makes taking road trips easy, which attracts many young tourists, according to Wang Zhenyue, marketing deputy director of the travel agency Utour Co.

"The US has a lot to offer Chinese tourists, including exotic natural scenery, such as the Yellowstone National Park, as well as various theme parks, such as Disneyland," says Jiang Yiyi, head of the China Tourism Academy's international tourism development institute.

The number of high-quality shopping venues also brings many foreign tourists to the US, Jiang says.

She said the increasing number of Chinese students studying in the US has also contributed to the growth in the number of Chinese tourists to the US, because some students' relatives go to visit them.

Most Chinese have studied English since primary school, so traveling in the US is easier than in Europe, where people speak multiple languages, says Jiang. "The US government has streamlined some visa application procedures and increased visa officers to make things more efficient and easier for Chinese tourists."

Applying for a visa to some European countries is more difficult because there is more red tape, she adds.

While most tourist attractions in China were overcrowded during the National Day holiday, Xie Yunlin flew to Europe to embark on her own exotic journey. "I chose to tour Russia this year, because there would be too many tourists in China during the holiday and I've already been to many famous and popular domestic scenic spots," says Xie.

The 26-year-old woman works at a securities company in Shanghai, and has already travelled to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland with her parents, friends and travel partners she found using tourist information sharing websites such as Qyer.com and Mafengwo.com.

"I've always been fascinated by the diverse religions in Europe, and I always went to see churches, castles and imperial palaces in different European countries, including the Gothic Notre Dame de Paris in France, Milan Cathedral in Italy and St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome," says Xie.

Xie also enjoys visiting European museums, such as the State Hermitage Museum in Russia, Louvre in France, and Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands.

Xie says she appreciates the differences in modern art between China and Europe. "I chose Europe over the US because I'm not a big fan of shopping and playing at casinos," she says.

Travel expert Liu Simin believes the rich European culture, low transportation costs, and mature tourism products make it an ideal destination for Chinese travelers. "Many stores and hotels in Europe have begun offering Chinese language services, such as the Galeries Lafayette, to help cater to the needs of the Chinese tourists," says Jiang Yiyi.

The US and Europe both hold great sway over Chinese tourists, especially those who have never been abroad, thanks to their exotic culture and customs. Both are must-see destinations.

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