Published: 10:01, May 23, 2024
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Xi welcomes US visitors to see real China
By Zhang Yunbi in Beijing and Yang Feiyue in Xi'an

Tourism serves as key bridge for better mutual understanding, president says

Students from China and the United States perform at the opening ceremony of the 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit, which opened in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on May 22, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

President Xi Jinping has reached out to all visitors from the United States with a welcoming gesture in a message that he sent to the 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit, which opened on Wednesday in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province.

"We cordially welcome US tourists to travel to China to meet Chinese friends, experience Chinese culture, tour scenic mountains and rivers, and get a firsthand look at the real China," he wrote.

US President Joe Biden also sent a congratulatory message to the event.

Industry observers have voiced great hopes that both nations will further encourage two-way visits, as the most recent numbers on border entries and direct flights continue to increase, compared with those of last year, yet they are still lower than the highs achieved before the COVID-19 outbreak.

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In his message, Xi said that "tourism is an important bridge for the people of China and the US to engage in exchanges and get to better know and bond with each other".

He expressed his hope that people from all walks of life in the two countries will take this summit as an opportunity for in-depth exchanges, consensus building and vigorous actions.

The goal is to facilitate people-to-people exchanges through tourism cooperation, to perpetuate China-US friendship through cultural exchanges, and to help translate the San Francisco vision into reality, he added.

The two countries are celebrating the 45th anniversary this year of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Xi said that the foundation of China-US relations was built by the people, the door of China-US ties was opened by the people, the story of the relations is written by the people, and the future of the ties will certainly be created by the two peoples.

Students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the United States visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on May 17, 2024. (Zou Hong / China Daily)

In his message, Biden said that both the US and China "are countries of rich cultural diversity, immense natural beauty and vibrant communities, big and small, all of which support travel and tourism industries that promote prosperity and understanding between our nations".

"Four years ago, a global pandemic closed our borders and halted travel and tourism around the world," Biden said when welcoming Chinese tourists to discover US cities and history and to engage with its people.

Observers noted that the huge potential of the China-US tourism market could be illustrated by the fact that before the COVID-19 outbreak, more than 300 flights operated between China and the US each week, and over 5 million visits were made between the two countries every year.

Christopher Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, an organization that promotes the US as a travel destination, said, "Last August, when the 14th US-China Tourism Leadership Summit was announced, we were all very excited to restart this type of connection between our two nations."

Related discussions have since had a real impact on advancing tourism between the two economies, as well as fostering better cultural understanding, he told the summit.

"We're very happy that consumer interest in visiting the US remains quite high," Thompson said, adding that the US remains a popular destination among Chinese travelers.

Experts noted that, as a sign of the recovery of international travel between China and the rest of the world, the country saw 1.78 million visits by inbound travelers and 1.9 million outbound visits during the recent five-day May Day holiday, close to the level in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.

With fresh joint efforts from both nations, the number of direct flights has grown from 20 per week early last year to 100 per week now, according to a recent speech by Chinese Ambassador to the US Xie Feng.

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Xie noted that "the flights now are still far from enough, and the tickets are too expensive", and he said the China travel advisory issued by Washington "has deterred many American friends from visiting China".

Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, told the summit that sustainable China-US tourism exchanges and high-quality tourism development "would not have been possible" without the guidance of the leaders of both countries, high-level visits, political mutual trust and interactions among industry players.

"For the continuous increase in tourist visits between China and the US, it is necessary to pragmatically promote tourism, implement more convenient visa policies, continuously expand direct flight quotas, and deepen cooperation and exchanges between tourism investment institutions and market entities," Dai said.

Furthermore, efforts should be made to promote exchanges between the two countries' tourism industries, education institutions and think tanks, he added.

Contact the writers at zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn