Chinese Media Calls for Targeting Travel in Trade Dispute

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A state-run media outlet in China is calling for the travel and tourism sector to be the “main battlefield” in the country’s ongoing trade dispute with the United States.

In an editorial in the Global Times, an English-language publication owned by the state-run People’s Daily, the author argues that, as tourism and other services is one of the few areas in which China has a trade deficit with the U.S., ongoing trade tensions could cause harm to the sector. The trade deficit is fueled by a big rise in outbound tourism from China and, if tensions escalate, the editorial argues that “Chinese people’s patriotism” could cause them to turn away from trips to the U.S.

“If trade friction woes grow, tourism-related entities, Trump Hotels included, should stand on the front lines alongside soybean farmers if Trump thinks someone must be sacrificed in the interests of the U.S.,” one section of the editorial reads.

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While the editorial focuses primarily on inbound travel to the United States, the China travel market has grown in importance with many brands U.S.-based travel agents will be familiar with. The cruise sector, for example, has greatly stepped up its investment in the Chinese market, deploying a number of new ships to the region, with the overall Asian market showing 24 percent growth between 2014 and 2015 – the highest during that period. Hotel companies such as Marriott have inked partnerships with companies like Alibaba, a China-based online and mobile commerce platform, to lure Chinese travelers, and, most recently, Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) signed a deal with China-based Alipay allowing U.S. travel agencies to accept it as a form of payment for airline tickets.

The recent tensions have prompted China’s government to issue stricter guidelines on how the country’s media can cover the dispute, according to Reuters.

“When exposing and criticizing American words and actions, be careful not to link it to Trump and instead to aim it at the U.S. government,” a memo obtained by Reuters read. The memo also encouraged Chinese media to “stabilize the economy, growth, employment, stabilize foreign trade, investment, finance, stabilize the stock market, the foreign exchange market, the housing market, and basically stabilize the peoples’ thinking, hearts and expectations.”

The editorial comes following last Friday’s move by the Trump administration to impose 25 percent tariffs on Chinese goods worth $34 billion, prompting the Chinese government to implement tariffs of its own, CNN reports. On Tuesday, the administration announced it is planning an additional $200 billion worth of tariffs, alleging that China is engaged in unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology.

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