Government Affairs Brand USA will now market to China By Johanna Jainchill / February 28, 2016 Share 1 China President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were guests at the White House during an official state visit in September, during which Xi and President Obama designated 2016 as the U.S.-China Tourism Year. Photo Credit: Pete Souza/The White House -- A gradual shift among Chinese visitors to the U.S. from almost exclusively taking group tour packages to traveling more independently creates opportunities for U.S. agents to tap into this growing stream of travelers, said Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson. Speaking on the eve of Brand USA’s first sales mission to China this week, Thompson said that as Brand USA generates overall interest in travel to the U.S., agents here will potentially see more business from the world’s most populous nation, which Brand USA predicts will become the No. 1 source market for international visitors within three years.“Now, more and more, we see them wanting to venture out on their own and do individual trips and go to multiple destinations,” Thompson said. “As it goes away from packaged travel to more individual travel then there might be some real opportunity for the travel trade to take advantage of that.” China is currently the fourth-largest source market for inbound tourism to the U.S., according to Brand USA, with slightly more than 2 million Chinese visiting the U.S. in 2014, a 20% jump over the previous year. Brand USA thinks that number could climb to between 5 million and 7 million Chinese visitors by 2021.Highlighting that remarkable growth potential and the tremendous interest on the part of travel suppliers in the U.S. to tap into it, Thompson said nearly 100 million Chinese people travel each year, yet only 6% of Chinese citizens have passports. Brand USA also noted that the U.S. is already the only long-haul destination among China’s top 10 destinations. Thompson is in China this week for the sales mission, a delegation of destination marketing organizations from cities stretching from Los Angeles to New York as well as hotel brands, car rental companies and even airports, visiting Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. Participants are meeting with tour operators, travel agents, meetings/incentive planners and media with the goal of developing opportunities to promote travel from China to the U.S.According to Thompson, Chinese travelers are very interested in the U.S. national parks. To promote this year’s centennial of the National Park Service, Brand USA will screen its new IMAX 3D, Robert Redford-narrated film “National Parks Adventure” during the sales mission. Brand USA is touting the trip as part of President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s joint designation of 2016 as the U.S.China Tourism Year after Xi’s state visit to the U.S. last fall. The initiative aims to “expand and shape travel” between the two countries.”The sales mission coincides with a Feb. 29 ceremony in Beijing to mark the partnership, to be attended by Thompson as well as several officials from both nations.