War of Words on Travel Continues in China Trade Dispute

China USA or United States trade and American tariffs conflict with two opposing trading partners as an economic import and exports dispute concept with 3D illustration elements
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The Global Times, a state-run media outlet in China that has called for tourism to be a “main battlefield” in the country’s trade dispute with the United States, has published a survey showing that Chinese interest in travel to the U.S. has declined over the first half of 2018. 

The Global Times cited data from online travel platform Mafengwo.com, which showed that, in the first half of this year, search popularity for popular U.S. cities including Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Boston, showed a decline in July, which is typically a peak season for U.S. tourism. Meanwhile, interest in travel to Russia and certain countries in Europe rose. 

The Global Times is an English-language publication owned by the state-run People’s Daily. In an editorial published earlier this week, the Times argued 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 argued that “Chinese people’s patriotism” could cause them to turn away from trips to the U.S.


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The coverage of this latest survey is along similar lines, with Jiang Yiyi, director of international tourism development at the Beijing-based China Tourism Academy, being quoted as saying that Chinese people will “vote with their feet,” as they did during a diplomatic dispute with South Korea

Although the survey focuses 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 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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