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Remarks at Tourism Award Ceremony, Shanghai, China

Monday, May 7, 2012

Commerce Secretary John Bryson
Remarks at Tourism Award Ceremony, Shanghai, China

This is a very special occasion. We are here to recognize the top five tour operators in the Shanghai region who arrange group travel to the U.S.

Travel and tourism between our countries is crucial to building stronger cultural and economic ties. This generates greater understanding and friendship between our people. And it also generates greater prosperity.
As you all know, the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Travel and Tourism was signed in 2007. It opened the door for packaged leisure travel to our country by Chinese groups.
Since then, the number of Chinese people traveling to the U.S. has grown significantly. So far this year, travelers from China have increased 40 percent over the same period in 2011!  
We are very happy to welcome these visitors, and we look forward to welcoming many more.
And under the leadership of the Department of Commerce, the United States government is taking a number of steps to ensure continued growth in travel and tourism from China to America.
As you no doubt know, at the direction of President Obama, our State Department has increased our capacity to process visa applications here in China.
Also, we are working with America’s travel and tourism leaders to make sure that our travel hubs–such as airports–are easier to navigate.
In addition, we are working to educate our hotel owners and service providers about the needs and wants of Chinese travelers.
And we are doing more to share information about all of the diverse cultural, recreational and entertainment opportunities that America offers.
These are important steps, because over the next five years, the number of international visitors traveling to the U.S. from all over the world is expected to grow significantly. We expect over 65 million visitors in 2012 alone.
This reflects the fact that travel and tourism is America’s number-one services export–and it continues to get stronger each day.
We project that China will–by far–have the largest percentage growth in tourism to the U.S. over the next five years, at nearly 200 percent.
Our message to China and people across the globe is clear: “the United States welcomes you.”

Before I go any further, let me recognize two groups.
First, thank you to the National Tour Association for developing the program that qualifies the U.S.-inbound tour operators. Without this program we could not have entered into the agreement that allows selling packaged travel to the United States.
Second, thank you to the China National Tourism Administration, which has been a good partner in developing travel and tourism for both countries.
We look forward to working with all of you to strengthen U.S.-China ties and reap all the economic and cultural benefits that flow from our relationship.
And finally, thank you to the Shanghai Commercial Service and Shanghai Tourism Bureau for all their work to support this event and to continue promoting U.S.-China travel and tourism.  
Now let me turn the microphone back over before we officially present today’s awards.