Chinese President Hu Jintao is once again on US shores beginning his visit with a decidedly business approach by first meeting with Bill Gates and Boeing in Seattle. While the Chinese leadership has periodically made symbolic moves towards appeasing protectionist sentiment in the US and abroad by embarking on a buying binge (Boeing planes in this instance) , it has done little to dispel the real thorn that irritates US-China relations, the floating of the Yuan. Among the likely contributors to reducing the trade surplus that country enjoys with the US will be Chinese tourists.
Despite an absurdly low Yuan, Chinese tourists have been flocking to Europe in the hundreds of thousands. Their suddenly ubiquitous presence in European crossroads airports like Heathrow and Charles De Gaulle is in marked contrast to a mere five years ago when it was easier to spot the abominable snowman than a Chinese. European operators have responded with alacrity to the influx – none more so than French chain , Accor where Chinese speaking staff and food at the breakfast table have been deployed. Much of the spurt in Chinese travel was prompted by an activist approach by the UK, French and German authorities that allowed for Chinese group travel (their favorite mode). The US is typically AWOL on that front. A metaphoric Great Wall is what is profferred instead to Chinese tourism with rigid visa policies.
Arguably influencing the “average” Chinese does little, if not nothing, to shake the iron moorings of the Chinese totalitarian system. However, it would certainly help the US trade deficit (and the Hotel industry mightily) to roll out a not so ironic red carpet to the Chinese. It may be premature for our industry to embark on classes in Mandarin but we ought to be talking Chinese to the Feds and the Department of State in particular to bring about our own Year of the Chinese Tourist – the Europeans had theirs in 2004