Chinese tourists put off by US violence and worsening bilateral ties, survey shows

September 13, 2022 GMT

More mainland Chinese tourists are planning to travel overseas, anticipating further easing of Covid-19 controls on mass movements in the coming few months into the next year, but the US has lost popularity as a destination, a recent survey has found.

The poll by Morning Consult, a US-based business intelligence company, was conducted in August among a representative sample of 1,000 adults.

The share of those with travel plans who say they will or might travel abroad in the coming year rose 23 percentage points between April and July. Now one in five Chinese adults say they will “definitely” travel internationally.

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But unlike before the coronavirus pandemic, the US will not be a favoured destination.

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Fear of violent crime, including mass shootings, is “scaring” the Chinese away, the report found, “outpacing other potentially prohibitive concerns such as Covid-19 exposure, cost and deteriorating US-China relations ”.

In the years preceding the pandemic, Chinese outbound tourism accounted for nearly one-fifth of all international tourism spending. Mainland Chinese constituted the third-largest contributor of international tourism in the US.

Now, Chinese travelers express less interest in visiting the US compared with several other regions and countries, particularly Europe, which 54 per cent of Chinese are interested in visiting, compared with only 35 per cent who say the same for the US, Morning Consult found.

“A plurality of Chinese have little to no interest in US travel,” the study concluded.

Scott Moskowitz, a geopolitical risk analyst at Morning Consult and an author of the report, said “an outsize Chinese media coverage of US gun violence, and especially mass shootings, is likely driving these fears”.

“Those who have seen, read or heard about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, are far more likely to cite violent crime as a reason not to travel to the United States”, he said.

On May 24, 19 children and two adults were gunned down at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where Latinos comprise a majority of the local population.

Ethnic minorities have increasingly become targets of violence in the US. A compilation of hate crimes against Asian-Americans by the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism in February revealed a 339 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crime nationwide between 2020 and 2021.

A sharp jump was reported for traditionally popular tourist destinations like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Overall, an 11 per cent surge was recorded in the number of hate crimes reported to the police in major American cities.

For New York City, cases of anti-Asian hate crimes jumped to 133 from 30, a 343 per cent increase. In San Francisco 60 such crimes were reported, compared with 9 in 2020, while for Los Angeles the figure stood at 177.5 per cent as the number of such crimes spiked from 89 to 247.

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Stop AAPI Hate, a group collecting data on non-violent hate crimes against Asian-Americans, said its latest study showed 11,500 incidents were reported between March 2020 and March 2022.

“Two in three” of these cases “involved harassment, such as verbal or written hate speech or inappropriate gestures”, the report stated.

Just 43 per cent of those interested in US travel cited anti-China bias as a major concern that would cause them to rethink travel, compared with 60 per cent who said violent crimes such as shootings are “a major concern that would give them pause”, Moskowitz said of the survey.

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Although little could be done to influence Chinese media coverage of the US, the report said, the tourism sector could “double down on safety-related messaging in marketing campaigns targeting Chinese consumers”.

“America’s gun violence epidemic shows no signs of slowing down and will therefore pose an ongoing deterrent to prospective tourists,” it added.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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