Remarks by Assistant Secretary Grant T. Harris at the 14th U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit - May 22

Xi’an, People’s Republic of China

May 22, 2024

As Prepared

State Councilor Shen Yiqin, Minister Sun Yeli, representatives from government and industry joining us here today from both the United States and the People’s Republic of China. 

I am so pleased to be here with you in beautiful Xi’an, for the 14th U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit. This Summit underscores the importance of strengthening travel and tourism and people-to-people exchanges between our two countries.

In my role as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry & Analysis, I have the honor of overseeing the United States Government’s National Travel and Tourism Office and leading the Department of Commerce’s work to advance travel and tourism.  It gives me great pleasure to be able to lead the American delegation to this important Summit on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Although not my first time in China, this is my first visit to Xi’an, and I thank Minister Sun and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for providing me with the opportunity to visit this great city and historic capital. It is apt that we are here, as Xi’an is a leading destination for tourism from across the world and serves as a great symbol of our countries’ efforts to increase travel and tourism between our two peoples.

Before I go into my remarks, I wanted to first further demonstrate the importance that the Biden-Harris Administration is placing on this Summit, by reading a letter from President Joe Biden.

[Reads letter from President Biden]

The announcement of this Summit was an outcome from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s meeting with former Minister of Culture and Tourism HU Heping during her visit to China last August.

In their meeting, Secretary Raimondo and Minister Hu discussed the importance of people-to-people exchanges to the broader U.S.-China bilateral relationship and the opportunity to further revive travel and tourism between our two countries following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More travel and tourism between the United States and China will create jobs and grow the economies of both our countries and foster mutual understanding of our people.

In the United States, travel and tourism supports 9.5 million jobs through $2.3 trillion in economic output across the country.  

The Biden-Harris Administration has been a steadfast supporter of the travel and tourism industry and has been integral to its recovery and success over the past several years.  As a roadmap to guide the work of the federal government, Secretary Raimondo released the National Travel and Tourism Strategy almost two years ago, which sets an overarching goal of attracting 90 million visitors spending $279 billion annually by 2027.

The Strategy brings a whole-of-government focus to increasing American jobs and growing the economy through travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation, and it envisions the public and private sectors working together to increase both the volume and value of travel and tourism.

In 2023, the United States welcomed 66.5 million visitors who spent $213 billion experiencing the country, and we are 84 percent recovered compared to 2019 numbers.  

According to our forecast for international visitation, we are on track to welcome 91 million international visitors by 2026, putting us one year ahead of schedule in exceeding the Strategy’s visitation goal.

An important factor in achieving this goal is the ability of the U.S. travel and tourism industry to attract more Chinese travelers to visit the United States for leisure, business, and education purposes.  

Prior to the pandemic in 2019, the United States welcomed nearly 3 million Chinese visitors who spent $33 billion experiencing the country, and China was our top overseas market for spending in the United States.

In 2023, 1.1 million Chinese travelers visited the United States, representing 38 percent of pre-pandemic visitation.

Restoring Chinese visitation to 2019 levels would support over 50,000 American jobs. Including indirect jobs and students studying in the United States, that number increases to support an estimated 400,000 American jobs.

According to our latest forecast, we anticipate that Chinese visitation to the United States will increase 150 percent from 2023 to 2025, 4.7 times faster than the rise in overall overseas visitation to the United States during this time. This success cannot be achieved without gatherings like this and the continued dedication from both of our countries to find ways to enhance people-to-people exchanges. I would like to thank Minister Sun and the whole Ministry of Culture and Tourism team for your continued partnership, and I know that my team is looking forward to working with you in the years to come. We encourage steps to provide a strong business environment to create opportunities for U.S. companies operating in China. With fair treatment and access to the market, they can offer more services to Chinese citizens and strengthen travel and tourism ties.

To do our part, the U.S. government is working hard with our partner, Brand USA, and other industry stakeholders by amplifying the diverse places and experiences across our 50 states, the District of Columbia, and our territories that make the United States such an incredible destination.

From our beautiful national parks and waters to our fine dining and shopping experiences, to our vibrant cities and small communities, there are so many different and exciting experiences for visitors to explore. 

We invite you to see all that our country has to offer. 

You can see this diversity in the U.S. delegation with us for the Summit, representing many extraordinary states, cities, attractions, and companies across the country — from Los Angeles, to Hawaii, to Niagara Falls, to Marriott, to Disney, to Carnival Cruise Line, and many more. 

In fact, I am proud to say that this is the most high-level and all-encompassing U.S. delegation to ever attend this Summit. This underscores the significance of this occasion and commemorates the full reopening of travel between the United States and China that happened in August 2023 when the United States was restored as an approved destination for Chinese group travel.

This Summit is a critical step in further expanding travel and tourism between our countries, providing a truly unique and important opportunity to strengthen connections between leaders, companies, and other stakeholders in our travel and tourism sectors. 

I look forward to the discussion today during the plenary as well as all that we will achieve through this Summit to create new opportunities for increased travel and tourism between our countries. 

Thank you.