Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write to ask you to consider an important change to the structure of visa regulations for Chinese citizens applying to travel to the United States. We support extending the current one year validity to five years and allowing multiple entries over the term of the visa. We believe this change will benefit the U.S. economy as well as allow Chinese-Americans the opportunity to welcome family and friends from China to the United States more often.
An efficient visa process is critical to U.S. effort to boost overseas visitation and the enormous revenues they generate for our economy. In his Executive Order on Travel and Tourism last year, President Obama launched an inter-agency effort to attract 100 million foreign visitors over the next decade. Extending the term of the visa and allowing multiple visits would constitute a major step toward achieving that commendable objective. Furthermore, by eliminating the need for multiple visas over a five year period, the State Department will be able to reallocate valuable resources to reduce visa processing backlogs in China and elsewhere around the globe.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, travelers generated $2 trillion in economic output, translating to 14.6 million American jobs in communities across the United States. The travel industry is leading the U.S. economic recovery in part by attracting visitors from around the world, including Chinese tourists ready to spend heavily on U.S. products and services. Travel exports constitute our nation's top service export, generating a trade surplus for travel of more than $4 billion in June.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization recently found that Chinese travelers are now the leading source of tourist spending around the world. In 2012, Chinese tourists spent more than $100 billion on tourism outside of China, a 40% increase from 2011. According to the Commerce Department, the volume of Chinese visitors from March 2012 to March 2013 rose by 21% and has increased by 27% year-to-date compared with the first quarter of 2012.
When visiting the United States, Chinese travelers spend more than any other foreign nationals: an average of more than $7,100 per visit. Moreover, this figure has risen by more than 500% since 2005. In 2012, Chinese visitors spent $8.8 billion while in the United States. The potential opportunity is staggering. If the United States attracts one percent of the growing Chinese travel market, those additional 830,000 Chinese travelers would spend $5 billion and support 35,500 more American jobs.
Regrettably, we are not taking full advantage of this opportunity. While nearly 2 million Chinese visitors are expected to visit the U.S. this year, this represents only 2% of the Chinese tourists likely to travel abroad in 2015. The Chinese State Council is working to increase this number through its "Outline for National Tourism and Leisure (2013-2020)" strategy to encourage citizens to utilize paid leave for vacations. By 2020, the number of Chinese visits abroad is expected to hit 200 million.
Local communities across the United States are working hard to attract Chinese visitors. It is critical that the United States increase efforts to welcome these travelers to exciting tourist destinations across the U.S. Brand USA, a nonprofit, public/private partnership created by Congress to attract foreign visitors to the U.S., has recognized the importance of increasing travel from China to the United States and is conducting an aggressive advertising campaign throughout China.
It is also important to note that one of the biggest segments of Chinese citizens who apply for visas are business travelers. Extending the visa term would yield far more opportunity for commercial relationships between our two countries. Overall, extending the term of the visa and allowing multiple visits over a five year period would play a critical role in welcoming additional visitors both for tourism and business from China.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you on this important issue.