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Chinese Demand for U.S. Tourist Visas ‘Nowhere Near’ 2019 Level

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Skift Take

It’s not a good sign for the U.S. if Chinese tourists — the destination’s biggest spending market in 2019.

Chinese tourists aren’t rushing to get a U.S. visitor visa like they did before the pandemic, according to a State Department official speaking Saturday at IPW, a travel trade conference focused on international inbound travel.

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“We’ve already seen a tripling of the visa applications in China from last year, but we’re nowhere near where we were before,” said Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for visa services. “We’re still seeing a very, very small portion of what we saw in 2019 from China.”

It’s a big change. “China used to be our biggest visa-issuing post in the world,” she said. “We did more visa [allocations] in China pre-pandemic than anywhere else.”

Millions of Chinese tourist visas come up for renewal next year. U.S. visitor visas last for 10 years before they have to be renewed. Stufft said the State Department is ready for the surge when it comes.

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Chinese tourism to the U.S. is below 60% of its pre-pandemic level, said Alex Lasry, deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the International Trade Administration.

Before the pandemic, China was the U.S.’s top tourism market in terms of spend. Chinese tourists spent over $30 billion in 2019, said Brand USA CEO and President Chris Thompson in an interview last year with Skift.

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