New 10-year visa for Chinese visitors in the U.S.A

A new visa extension for US and Chinese citizens is expected to boost US tourism and is being looked upon as a positive step in relations between the two super powers.
US President Barack Obama announced on Monday in Beijing that the US and China had agreed to a reciprocal 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen. Speaking during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama said the move would “benefit everyone”.
It will allow citizens of each country to travel between the two countries for up to 10 years on a single visa, putting China on level footing with other major trade partners like Brazil and several European countries. Travelers and students can currently receive one-year visas. Students will also now be able to obtain five-year visas. The visa extensions will start on Wednesday.
The change is expected to be a boon for the US economy, creating up to 440,000 American jobs by 2021 because increased tourism and business spurred by visits from more than 7 million Chinese would generate nearly $85 billion in revenue, according to a White House estimate.
Last year 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the US, contributing $21.1 billion to the economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs, according to a White House estimate.
The tourism industry accounted for 2.8 percent of US GDP and nearly 70 million international tourists spent $166 billion in the US in 2012, according to the US Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.
“Where this will make the most impact is on the repeat traveler to the US from China,” said Evan Saunders, CEO of Attract China, a Boston and Beijing consultant that helps US businesses attract Chinese tourists.
He said many Chinese visitors who want to make multiple visits to the US won’t have to go through what can be a time-consuming process of renewing a visa every year.
“By 2018, Chinese tourists are expected to be the top overseas traveler to the US,” Saunders told China Daily.
What do US businesses have to do to take advantage of the projected influx of tourists?
“US businesses need to utilize the Internet and social media to engage the Chinese consumer,” said Saunders. “And they need to do it about six months before the Chinese tourist departs for the US.”
In 2012, Obama issued an executive order to ease the issuance of visas to visiting Chinese and to speed up the visa request process at China’s US consulates.
“This convinced hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors to choose the US as a leisure and shopping destination and knowing that an average Chinese visitor to the US spends an average of $7,000 per trip, the impact on the US economy could be measured in additional billions,” said Pierre Gervois, CEO and publisher of China Elite Focus Magazines.
The visa extension will bring explosive growth to the tourism industry, said Ralph Zhu, marketing director of US International Trip, a California-based travel agency which expects 300,000 customers from China this year.
“The biggest growth may come from Chinese students studying in the US,” he said, “A student may spend three or four years in the United States. Under the new visa policy, their family and friends won’t worry about renewing their visas and therefore are more likely to visit them every year.”
The Chinese account for about 28 percent of the foreign students studying in the US according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Door report.
The basic visa processing fee will remain the same, according to the US State Department.
Obama arrived in Beijing earlier for a week-long trip to the region and the APEC summit. Later he is scheduled for a state visit with Xi.
“The fact that President Obama announced these changes with what he termed the strong approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a major multi-lateral event like the APEC summit is a positive step,” Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution,told China Daily.
However, Lieberthal said the agreement’s effect on the relationship between the two super powers will probably be muted.
“It’s a huge and complicated relationship. Still it does suggest that both sides want to accomplish some positive things. The new visa requirements will provide a boost to travel and it will increase interaction between the two countries. That is always a good thing,” he said.
Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this report.
Article by PAUL WELITZKIN, China Daily USA, New York
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Rich district shifts its focus to quality of life

ByXuXiao (ChinaDaily)

Rising govt revenues make social initiatives possible

Relying on the wealth accumulated during six decades of economic growth, authorities in the Siming district are now focused on improving public living standards.

The district was established in 1950 in Xiamen, Fujian province. It is now the economic, political and cultural center of the renowned coastal city.

The district government said “fortune” and “happiness” are the key words for today’s Siming.

The local officials pointed out that increasing government revenues are an important indicator of public fortune and a major financial resource that the government uses to improve the local quality of life and for other social undertakings.

In 2012, the district reported government revenue of 13.3 billion yuan, an increase of 20.3 percent year-on-year, signaling record growth in the past five years.

In the first half of 2013, government revenue approached 9.1 billion yuan, the largest of all the cities in Fujian.

The officials said the fortune comes from the city’s abundant business opportunities brought by its born geographic advantages as a close neighbor of Taiwan, as well as its preferential policy environment as a part of a city that is listed as one of the four special economic zones in China and a pilot in cross-Straits business cooperation.

Tourist attractions

The unique natural environment there also makes the district appealing to both residents and tourists.

Embraced by mountains and sea, Siming district has a pleasant climate.

There are several renowned tourist resorts along the 10-kilometer beaches. Fifteen of Xiamen’s top 20 resorts are located in Siming.

The most attractive among all the resorts is the 1.77-square-kilometer Gulangyu Island, which is about 500 meters away from the city proper across the Lujiang River.

Featuring blue sea, green trees and colonial-style houses, the serene island is also known as “the garden on the sea”.

According to the district government, Siming’s tourism revenue reached 39.2 billion yuan in 2012, accounting for 70 percent of Xiamen’s total.

In recent years, the government has highlighted the service industry and several emerging industries.

It has a booming high-end consumer goods market, making it a trend leader in Xiamen as well as Fujian province.

The Paragon Center is Fujian’s first and largest high-end shopping mall, gathering some 80 globally renowned brands, including such luxury names as Gucci, Burberry and Montblanc.

Another luxury shopping mall called China City has a 200-meter-long corridor for showcasing renowned watches. Here consumers can find luxury watch brands, including Piaget, Jaeger-Le Coultre, Omega, and IWC.

China City also has the first Ferrari and Maserati showrooms in Fujian province.

In addition to these luxury shopping malls, high-end hospitality business is another propeller of Siming’s development.

In Siming, there are 48 star-rated hotels, accounting for 61 percent of Xiamen’s total.

Many hotels combine first-rate facilities with Siming’s regional characteristics.

For instance, the Hotel Nikko Xiamen gives guests a sea view through French windows in the rooms.

The district is also on its way toward becoming a luxury yachting hub of Xiamen, with the Shangshan International Yacht Club now under construction. Local government officials said “the club is expected to introduce a new lifestyle to local people” when becoming operational.

Pivotal role

Siming district is playing a pivotal role in Xiamen’s initiative to build a cross-Straits financial hub.

According to the district government, in the first half of 2013, the district’s financial and insurance enterprises generated revenue totaling more than 6.6 billion yuan, an increase of 9.3 percent year-on-year.

Government officials said these companies have offered strong financial support for local growth and cross-Straits business cooperation.

Another driver of growth is Siming’s advantages in terms of high-quality human resources. The district is home to several renowned higher learning and research institutes, including the prestigious Xiamen University.

The district government has also implemented a talent plan, with a 100-million-yuan fund to support talent development.

The district also regularly hosts academic activities, inviting famous experts and scholars to give lectures to local researchers and students.

Amid rapid economic and social transformation, the local government wants to make sure that all the residents, especially those lower-income families, can enjoy a better life.

One of the efforts is the “warm-heart supermarket”, an invention by the district in May 2004. In these supermarkets, donated goods are displayed on shelves and needy people can choose what they want for free.

The goal of the supermarket is to let people get help while keeping their dignity, government officials said.

So far, 1,200 families have received continuous help from the service.

Now the “warm-heart” initiative has evolved into a public welfare brand, including 11 supermarkets, 26 online schools, six classrooms, 12 canteens and 40 community funds under the same name.


The Rise of the Chinese Independent Traveler

Rafat Ali, Skift

Sep 11, 2013 7:30 am

In our launch report “Rise of the Chinese Independent Traveler,” Skift has put together the most definitive report covering what the next generation of Chinese travelers want from their experience.

Mainland China is now the world’s largest source of foreign tourists, as well as the world’s biggest spenders on hotels and retail while they travel.

And despite slowing economic growth at home, the trend continues unabated. In the first five months of 2013, nearly 40 million Chinese traveled abroad, a double-digit increase over 2012′s already record numbers.

While outbound travel for Chinese mainland citizens is still dominated by group tours that often bus the tourists from city to city, its growth is slowing when compared to the meteoric rise of independent tourism. Fully independent outbound tourism is growing even faster than foreign travel in general, and the market is still in its infancy. This trend goes hand-in-hand with a demographic sea change for China: a second generation of affluent consumers coming of age.

We look at the forces that influence China’s outbound market and the mega-trends they are shaping. We also examine strategies that will help travel providers understand and market to these increasingly independent travelers.

Chinese travelers spend US$102 billion on international travel in 2012

China has overtaken Germany and the USA as the world’s biggest spenders on travel, with Chinese travelers spending US$102 billion on international travel in 2012, an increase of over 40% on 2011.
The second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor released today reveals significant insights into the changing behaviours of Chinese travelers and how the global hotel industry is adapting.
Surveying more than 3,000 Chinese international travelers and more than 1,500 hoteliers around the world, the report found 75 percent of hoteliers globally say Chinese travelers now account for up to five percent of their business and 45 percent say they have experienced an increase in Chinese guests over last year, with the greatest increases coming in APAC (61 percent). Hoteliers see China as a positive growth market over the next three years with one in 10 expecting to see an increase of more than 50 percent and almost half (47 percent) anticipating an 11-50 percent rise.
According to the report the majority of overseas Chinese travel (96 percent) has been for leisure purposes, while just over half (52 percent) have also visited other countries for business or education.

Top 10 destinations interested in traveling to in next 12 months %
Australia 39%
France 33%
New Zealand 27%
USA 26%
Switzerland 25%
Singapore  23%
Hong Kong 21%
Taiwan 20%
UK 19%
Canada 19%

In a growing trend, nearly two thirds (62 percent) of Chinese travelers say they prefer to travel independently and not as part of a group. This development has been confirmed by the hoteliers surveyed, who say 70 percent of Chinese guests now travel independently, compared with a much more even split in 2012.
Other changes in behaviour noted by Singapore hoteliers included Chinese travelers spending more money, increasingly speaking more English and over all being less sensitive to price.

Johan Svanstrom, Managing Director of Asia Pacific, said, “The 2013 Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) shows the move to independent travel identified in the CITM last year is now preferred by the majority of Chinese travelers. While in-roads have been made in this area, governments will have to take this into account when organising their visa application infrastructure and processes.”
In addition, the CITM highlights areas for continued improvement for accommodation providers. The ability to accept Chinese payment methods is seen as the single most important offering from hotels and over a quarter (26 percent) of Chinese travelers feel this is a key area for improvement.
Three quarters (75 percent) of Chinese travelers say hoteliers need to improve the provision of translated items, such as welcome literature, websites, TV programs and newspapers, while almost half (42 percent) say that they would like more Mandarin speaking staff in hotels.

Highlighting a disconnect between the desires of Chinese travelers and provisions made by hoteliers, a quarter (25 percent) of hoteliers say they offer cultural awareness training to staff but only one in ten (11 percent) offer welcome materials in Mandarin. Additionally, globally, just over half (56 percent) of hotels have invested less than $10,000 in developing programmes and products specifically catering to Chinese guests over the past 12 months.
When it comes to researching and booking travel, personal recommendation plays an increasingly vital role, with almost a third (30 percent) of Chinese travelers saying they rely on advice from family and friends, followed by online travel booking and review sites.

Pierre Gervois, CEO & Publisher of China Elite Focus, said “Hoteliers realize now that it’s very important to advertise in specialized travel magazines, segmented by country (for example Luxury Hotels of America), or by activity (for example VIP Golf USA)”.
“The new generation of Chinese travelers trust these specialized travel magazines in Chinese language much more that a recommendation made by a travel agent or a generalist travel website. Even if Chinese guests will do the booking through booking engines, such as CTRIP, they will make their choice of hotel by reading specialized magazines and social media networks, and then, go to a booking engine.”, Mr Gervois added.

More than a quarter of Chinese travelers (27 percent) use social media to help them make decisions on holiday destinations, with this figure rising to 33 per cent among younger travelers under 35.
These insights highlight the need for hoteliers to adapt their marketing strategies, with a particular focus on online and social media channels, to attract Chinese travelers. While the CITM shows hoteliers are making positive steps towards catering to an increasingly mobile and savvy Chinese travel market, it also shows the need for the global hotel industry to adapt facilities and services to more extensively cater to the world’s largest market of travelers.
In addition, programmes being implemented by many governments and tourism authorities to attract and facilitate for Chinese travelers are a positive step in the right direction, but the pace of growth in the volume of Chinese travelers appears to be outstripping the pace of change in the hotel industry.

Families feel the pull of ‘gravity’

More Chinese parents moving overseas to be with children, Yu Ran reports in Shanghai.

An increasing number of young Chinese who left home to study in overseas universities have decided to settle in their host countries. They have secured good jobs, married and are raising families. Now many are urging their parents to join them.

Liang Lixia, a 55-year-old retiree from Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, has been living for three years with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in a large, three-story house in Auckland, New Zealand.


Families feel the pull of 'gravity'

Ma Xuejing/ China Daily


“My daughter chose to stay in New Zealand after graduation. My husband and I respected her decision and have tried to make her life easier by moving here to live with the family,” said Liang, who has been granted permanent residence in New Zealand after being sponsored by her daughter, an accountant at a local company.

The country’s parental “Center of Gravity” regulations mean parents can be sponsored for residency if “the principal applicant parent has no dependent children, and the number of their adult children lawfully and permanently in New Zealand is equal to or greater than those lawfully and permanently in any other single country”, according to the website of Immigration New Zealand.

“I came here to take care of the 4-year-old and make sure that my daughter and son-in-law have more time and energy to earn money for the family. That means I am just a babysitter for the moment,” laughed Liang.

China has become New Zealand’s largest source country for immigrants approved through the parental category, accounting for 47 percent of all immigrants in the country last year.

On average, 10.7 percent of immigrants to New Zealand were aged 50 or older in 2012. However, the number from China accounted for 39.9 percent of the total, meaning four in every 10 Chinese who gained permanent resident status in 2011 and 2012 were within that age group, according to the latest statistics from Immigration New Zealand.

“We applied for permanent residence simply to spend more time with my daughter and her young family,” said Liang.

Her daughter began studying in New Zealand in 2002. She married a local man in 2008, two years after graduation, and gave birth to a baby girl a year later. When the little girl was 3-months-old, she was taken to China so Liang could look after her, leaving the parents free to devote themselves to their fledgling careers. Two years later, the girl was taken back to New Zealand to attend kindergarten.

Liang now spends her days in Auckland taking care of her granddaughter, cooking and keeping the large house spick and span.

“I also have time to drive around and take part in some of the activities of the nearby Chinese community. I am also trying to learn English,” she said.

With regard to her future plans, she is unsure if she and her husband will continue to live with her daughter in their later years.

“Although the living environment is good in New Zealand, we would still prefer to spend our later years with friends and relatives back in China – it’s where we belong, it’s in our blood.”

She added that they will probably return to live in China permanently in two or three years when their granddaughter begins primary school. After that, they will travel to New Zealand every year to spend a few months with the family.

Run for home

Zhou Zhifa has a similar story. After spending more than 10 years living in Italy, the 80-year-old insisted on returning to his hometown of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

“We were persuaded to move away from China to help my sons start a business overseas. It’s now expanded and we’ve hired a number of local employees,” said Zhou, who used to visit Wenzhou for about three months every year. However, he has reversed the process and now spends just three months a year in Italy.

Along with his wife, Zhou arrived in Milan in 1997 and helped their sons with their chain of stores, which sell Chinese-made clothing, accessories and souvenirs.

“Initially, we imagined ourselves staying in Italy permanently, even after our sons no longer needed our help in the company, but we later realized that not speaking Italian fluently meant we wouldn’t fit into the local society and would be forced to stay at home and not go out much,” said Zhou.

The return to Wenzhou has been therapeutic for Zhou, who said he enjoys strolling to a nearby park to play chess with old friends. Meanwhile, he regularly arranges short trips to the countryside so he and his wife can enjoy the cleaner air.

Many of the younger generation, usually the only child in the family, have tried persuading their parents to spend the autumn of their lives overseas.

“My parents sent me to Canada for further study after I graduated from the University of Leeds in the UK,” said Yang Xixi, a 28-year-old financial consultant in Vancouver, who married a Canadian-Chinese man in 2012.

Since finding a job with a local company in 2009, Yang has asked her parents to live with her many times. She feels she has been away from them for too long.

“I think I am now able to let my parents enjoy their later years without the worry of making more money to provide me with a better life. Life would be complete if they could move here permanently,” said Yang.

However, her parents are still busy running their logistics company in Shenyang, Liaoning province, and have refused to move away from China.

“I am planning to have a baby in the next year or two, and hopefully my parents will change their minds for the sake of their grandchild and we can enjoy a wonderful family reunion,” she said.

According to experts, the desire is perfectly normal, especially for Chinese people who set great store in family unity, especially the younger generation whose only-child status may mean they miss the warmth of family life more keenly.

“Most of the elderly people who have applied to emigrate to countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand in the past two years are the parents of graduates who studied at universities overseas, and they have seen their children settle in the host country,” said Zhang Yuehui, a Beijing-based immigration expert.

He added that the elderly outflow is the result of a trend that has seen an increasing number of young people choose to move abroad for study or work with the specific intention of staying in the host country permanently.

Aging population

However, some elderly parents are more than willing to emigrate and enjoy a quieter and more comfortable life.

“I bought my son a house in the US when he graduated from university and applied for a masters course so he would be able to find a better job there; we looked forward to living abroad when we were young,” said Yan Keqin, a 58-year-old retired teacher from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.

She added that she and her husband, a retired lawyer, have traveled overseas on many occasions and, therefore, are able to adapt to different cultures and lifestyles very quickly. They decided to accompany their son when he emigrated.

Now, Yan and her husband live a few blocks away from their son in Seattle. She spends most of her leisure time gardening, visiting libraries, shopping and cooking, in addition to going to her son’s house every week for a family dinner.

“The living environment is much better here than in Hangzhou; it feels as though we are on a permanent vacation; everything seems full of sunshine and fresh air and we have plenty of time to do the things we really want to do,” she said.

As a future trend, Zhang suggested that more elderly emigrants will come to realize that living overseas in their later years is a wise option.

“As the problem of China’s rapidly aging population becomes more severe, more elderly people are planning to move overseas during the next decade. They want to go to countries that offer a more extensive healthcare system, a better-protected environment and a slower pace of life,” he said.