Elephant in the China shop

China’s outbound tourism and the elections in the USA

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear Readers,

Today, while you are reading this new edition of COTRI WEEKLY, votes in the United States for the 46th president of the United States of America are being counted. Actually, this president will only be the president of less than half of America, not including Canada and not including all the countries south of the Rio Grande, but like “Zhongguo”, Middle Kingdom, the name of China in Chinese, the ambition is clear in both cases. At least Middle Kingdom is less of a misnomer as every point on a globe can claim to be the centre point.

Currently, the CoViD-19 pandemic has stopped almost all travels between China and the USA. In the second quarter of 2020 less than 2,000 Chinese crossed the border into the USA and in the third quarter the number was not much higher. However, the negative trend started long before the virus struck. From a high point of 3.3 million arrivals in 2017, the number went down to 3.0 million in 2018 and 2.8 million in 2019, while the total Chinese outbound tourism market continued to grow. Even the neighbour Canada, not being on very good terms with China on the level of government relations either, managed growth from roughly 700,000 to 750,000 arrivals in the same period.

There are a number of reasons to mention for this development: Overall they include the growing appetite of Chinese to travel to new destinations after they ticked off a country from their bucket list, the lack of successful marketing for places within the USA other than California, Nevada, New York and Washington D.C., and for some periods of time exchange rate fluctuations. More importantly however are the US-Chinese trade war and the general perception of the USA as an enemy of China, not welcoming Chinese visitors. Business trips, number of overseas students, family visits all suffered from this increasingly negative view.

Several surveys by COTRI and other organisations have shown in the last years that after Safety, the second most important reason to choose a destination is the answer to the question “Do they like us Chinese there?” A French traveller to Thailand will not care much if the locals like his country or not. For almost all Chinese this is an important aspect.

So, the outcome of today’s election will have a considerable effect on China’s outbound tourism in the coming years. A Biden-Harris government will not be automatically more China-friendly but will reopen the road to sensible discussions and compromises. If Trump is the candidate supported by Putin, so Biden seems to be seen as the safer bet for Xi compared to the loose cannon currently acting like the proverbial elephant in the China shop.

Tomorrow we will know if the world can look forward to somewhat quieter years ahead when the real burning issue of climate change will get the amount of attention it needs again instead of a concentration on masks and disinfectants and a daily dose of lunatic tweets.

by the way, don’t miss the Handy Hint No.5 which is about China Niche Market, available on YouTube

All best wishes as always from the editor Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team!