For the first time in 15 years, the number of Chinese travelers to the U.S. dropped last year, a decline that travel experts attribute to trade tensions and a strong U.S. dollar that made purchases more expensive for Chinese visitors.
But local tourism officials are not wringing their hands because Los Angeles may be defying the national trend, they say.
The growth of Chinese travel to Los Angeles has slowed. Visits grew by nearly 7% last year, down from 12% growth in 2017 and 20% in 2016, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
But the increase in visitors to Los Angeles is a stark departure from the overall declining trend in Chinese travelers to the U.S. The National Travel and Tourism Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce reported a 5.7% drop in travelers from China to the U.S. in 2018, compared with the previous year.
Tourism officials in Los Angeles and nationwide have been closely watching Chinese visitation numbers for years because travelers from China typically spend more per visit to the U.S. — an average of nearly $7,000 — than any other tourist. Also, the Chinese middle class, estimated at more than 400 million people, is growing and is primed to travel.
The share of the Chinese tourists who visited Los Angeles County while in the U.S. grew from 35% in 2017 to 41% last year, according to Tourism Economics.