More than 5 million more Chinese visitors are expected to take a trip to the United States over the next few years according to the US Department of Commerce.
That great expectation follows the White House announcement that Chinese visas would be extended from 1 year to 10 years. The policy is being applauded by those at the heart of the tourism industry in Hollywood, as it is hoped the visa relaxation will lead to greater spending by Chinese travellers and businesses.
For Hollywood tour guides like Johnny Kay who rely on visitors for their livelihood, more tourists means more tips. “That’s how I make my living, I do not get paid an hourly salary like everyone else does. So Johnny Kay tries to give the best tour possible.”
He spends his days driving bus loads of tourists, eager to see the main attractions, around Hollywood. One such tourist is Sullunga Bao from China, who rattles off the names of must-see attractions such as Universal Studios, California Science museums and the Walk of Fame.
Chinese applicants seeking a tourist or business visa for the United States will now receive multiple-entry visas good for 10 years and vice versa for Americans visiting China. According to the White House, the visa policy changes could mean as many as 7.5 million Chinese visitors by 2021.
Souvenir shop owners in Hollywood say they depend on Chinese visitors for much of their income. When tourism slows, they suffer. Pedro Dias, who works at Souvenirs of Hollywood, said: “We expect Chinese and Japanese tourists in November and December. But this month has been a little bit slow”.
Official figures show Chinese visitors brought an estimated US$21.1 billion to the US economy in 2013, but that number is expected to increase to US$85 billion in the next 5 years.
That Chinese appetite for America is already very apparent on the streets of Hollywood. Jill Zhian, visiting from Hong Kong, said: “A lot of people here can speak Chinese and there are Chinese everywhere. It is really convenient for Chinese people to come here, and there are so many places to visit, like Santa Monica. It is very beautiful.”
Chinese visitors already make up the largest percentage of overseas tourists to California. It is thought the multiple-year visas will allow them to come back and visit other parts of the United States.
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Article: Channel New Asia