The National Tour Association played a prominent role in the China-inbound market at the U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit in Los Angeles earlier this month.
"Everyone is very excited about the growth in Chinese visitors to the U.S.," said Nick Hentschel of AmericanTours International (ATI), an NTA member based in Los Angeles, who spoke at the U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit on September 9. "As a service industry dedicated to the passenger experience, we should be building a bridge between our two nations."
That bridge-building, Hentschel explained, includes continued engagement by the two governments, Brand USA, and tour companies participating in NTA's China Inbound Program. "Following the 'rules of the road' set out by NTA is not only good for building this bridge, it is also good for business in the long run."
NTA President Pam Inman led a panel discussion focused on increasing multidestination U.S. tours. "To ensure the best possible experience, tour operators must provide access to Chinese-speaking guides and materials in Chinese," Inman said. "Our China Inbound Program operators attest to compliance with policies and procedures for insurance, education, ethics, and safety."
NTA members and summit panelists Chris Babb of Washington, D.C.-based The Group Tour Company and Harry Chen of San Francisco-based Joy Holiday Tours spoke about the increasing popularity of independent travel by Chinese visitors and the emergence of U.S. destinations beyond gateway cities.
Inman participated in the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, held during the summit, alongside representatives from The U.S. Department of Commerce and the China National Tourism Administration. Haybina Hao, NTA's director of international development, updated the commission on NTA tour operators' achievements in the China inbound market. Enrollment in NTA's China Inbound Program reached 200 operators this year, and the association coordinated familiarization trips in New Orleans and the Washington, D.C., area. In May, Inman and Hao led a U.S. delegation to China, where the group met with government officials and NTA members.
When NTA launched its China Inbound Program in 2008, fewer than a half-million Chinese citizens visited the United States. Since 2008, NTA has been entrusted by the U.S. and Chinese governments to vet U.S. tour companies that handle the leisure group market from China. Last year inbound Chinese visitation overall rose 21 percent. Visitation topped the one million mark in 2011, and by last year it doubled again, when nearly 2.2 million Chinese visitors traveled to the United States. By 2019, China is projected to become the third-largest U.S.-inbound market, sending some 4.9 million visitors.