After decades of robust growth, fewer people from the People’s Republic of China are booking tours to New York City. In 2018, 1.1 million Chinese visitors came to NYC (up from around 140,000 in 2007), according to data from NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm. As the trade war between China and the U.S. escalates, that number has begun to fall dramatically.

While official figures for New York aren’t yet available, data from the Commerce Department’s National Trade and Tourism Office show a 3.1% drop in visitors from China to the U.S. through the first half of this year. In addition to rising political tensions between the two nations, the record number of mass shootings in this country has raised concerns among the Chinese about how safe it is to travel here.

The number of Chinese travelers rose in NYC in 2018, even as it fell nationwide for the first time since 2003 – but businesses that specialize in serving Chinese visitors say they are seeing fewer of them, particularly when it comes to tour groups.

The fear is the decline in tourism will deepen – and those who do come may spend less – especially after the Chinese government devalued the yuan in early August, in response to President Trump’s claim that he would impose tariffs on almost all Chinese imports effective Sept. 1. In mid-August, Trump said he would delay tariffs on cellphones, laptops, toys and certain other items until Dec. 15.

A weaker yuan helps blunt the impact of tariffs for Chinese manufacturers but makes a trip to New York or anywhere else in the U.S. more expensive.

The decline stings because China has been the city’s fastest-growing source of tourists, and data show the Chinese are the biggest spenders among international travelers. Visitors from China are an important reason why NYC tourism has doubled in the past 20 years, to a record 65 million travelers, even as the number of visitors from other countries has flatlined. Tourism accounts for more jobs in NYC than finance, according to a report last year by the Center for an Urban Future.

Even though the numbers are declining, China still supplies more visitors to New York than any other country except Great Britain, and serving these travelers remains a top priority for retailers and others in the tourist trade. In addition to shopping for iPhones, electronics and fashion, the Chinese often buy cosmetics and vitamin supplements, which tend to be cheaper here.

Source: Crain’s New York Business

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