by Xinhua writers Yang Shilong, Zhou Xiaozheng
NEW YORK, April 4 (Xinhua) -- China is a rapidly growing market to the U.S. tourism industry, an area of bilateral engagement that presents "a positive answer to trade deficits," said a Californian industry leader.
"I'm just ever hopeful that the relationship ... stays intact, because it's been very, very fruitful for both countries, and for our state," Caroline Beteta told Xinhua in a recent interview. "We would very much like to see the 10-year multiple-entries visa continue."
Beteta is president and CEO of Visit California, a nonprofit organization created to market California as a premier travel destination and to increase the state's share of tourism-related revenues.
She noted that her organization, which represents a nearly 130-billion-U.S.-dollar industry with over 1 million employees, has just launched a new project -- "California, All Dreams Welcome" -- to attract more international tourists, including Chinese.
"By 2020, it (China) will be our largest international market," Beteta said. "It's neck and neck with Canada now, but it's growing at double-digit rates and we will see about 2 million Chinese visitors by 2020, spending over 3 billion dollars."
Over the past decade, Chinese visitors to the United States have grown nearly 10-fold from 320,000 arrivals in 2006 to over 3 million in 2016, which was designated as the China-U.S. Tourism Year.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the number of arrivals is projected to grow to 5.7 million by 2021.
Beteta noted that California is the No. 1 travel destination in the United States, two and half times the size of the New York tourism economy and five times the size of the Hawaiian tourism economy.
The state currently attracts 45.5 percent of all Chinese visitors, the highest percentage of any U.S. state. About 1.3 million Chinese visitors spent 2.6 billion dollars in California in 2016.
"Fortunately we're a positive answer to trade deficits," she said. "Tourism is the largest service exporter all over California, bigger than agriculture, just massive bigger than entertainment, absolutely massive."
Commenting on the upcoming meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago residence in the U.S. state of Florida, she said it offers an "opportunity for more depth and texture of a relationship that perhaps the confining walls of an office, rigidly driven by protocol, might not afford."
She stressed that the two countries have a responsibility to the respective peoples to look transparently at fair trade relationships, not just from a bilateral standpoint, but really from a global standpoint, because what the two countries do will set a pace and tone for the rest of the world.
Noting that the meeting might serve as a high-profile promotion campaign for Visit Florida world over, she said she is not afraid of Florida's competition for Chinese tourists.
"What we say in America, 'rising tide lifts all boats,' and I'm thrilled that they're having their first very important engagement outside of the nation's capital. I think that's what's most important," she said.