HONOLULU (eTN) – Signed in December 2007, the agreement between the United States and China to allow Chinese tour groups to visit the United States as leisure travelers was put into action this week. China has sent the first tour group (from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou) with an Approved Destination Status yesterday, June 17.
Based on the agreement between US and Chinese authorities, China-organized tour groups to the US will follow the grading principles of time, area, and tourist. According to published reports, the first phase in implementing this action will be for six months, and the areas include Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. From June 17 of this year, travel agencies in these nine provinces and cities with the qualifications to operate outbound tour business are permitted to organize tour groups of locally-registered citizens to travel to the United States.
According to China Hospitality News, Shanghai CITS and Shanghai CTS will operate the first batch of Shanghai tour groups to the United States. These will consist of a total of 80 tourists and have an itinerary covering the east and west coasts of the USA in ten-day tours. Next, 38 outbound travel agencies in Shanghai will be able to organize America tours.
Hawaii has had its sight set on the Chinese market for quite some time. In 2005, Governor Linda Lingle made her first visit to China and, as result, signed a joint statement with Huang Huahua, governor of Guangdong Province, agreeing to strengthen cooperation in regards to economy and trade, education and training, environmental protection, transport and communications, tourism and hotel service development, cultural exchanges and protection of their respective cultural heritage.
Last month, Hawaii tourism liaison Marsha Wienert briefly talked about this breakthrough in an exclusive interview with eTN. She then said, “The US and China have entered a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] for group leisure travel. We expect that MOU to be initiated and implemented probably late in May and early June of this year, which allows inbound group leisure travel into the US.”
In Washington, DC, a welcome gala celebrating the commencement of the implementation of the landmark agreement is scheduled to take place tomorrow. Hosted by the National Tour Association (NTA) and the Travel Industry Association, tourism luminaries, as well as US and Chinese government officials are expected to attend.
“The inaugural tour follows the signing of the MOU between the US and Chinese governments to open the door to Chinese leisure group travel into the US,” NTA said in a statement. “This is a momentous groundbreaking occasion for the United States and the economic growth of travel and tourism.”
Among those expected to attend, include US Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, US Commerce Under Secretary Chris Padilla, US Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary William G. Sutton, China National Tourism Administration chairman Shao Qiwei, Travel Industry Association president and CEO Roger Dow, NTA chairman and CEO Bob Hoelscher, and NTA president Lisa Simon.