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中国游客拯救美国旅游业

Mina Kimes 2013年02月25日

中国游客已经成为美国本土消费的新势力。2006年,美国对中国的旅游业还存在近7亿美元的逆差,但到了2011年,却有了44亿的顺差。中国游客舍得花钱,已经成为全球最受欢迎的客源。美国企业做好准备了吗?

    从拉斯维加斯到洛杉矶的中途,丹吉尔购物中心(Tanger)出现在远处,高耸的标志像是召唤人们的一片绿洲。在我们所乘的旅游大巴上,激动的人们已经显露出笑容。我和52名中国游客共坐一车,他们大多是来自上海的退休老人,只有极少数人会说英语。但是,当我们的车停进商场的停车场时,他们俯身倾向车窗,喊出了一些熟悉的词:“Polo!Tommy!锐步!”

    我们原本应该在附近的一家熊猫快餐店(Panda Express)停下来吃顿午饭,但大家一致否决了坐下来吃饭的计划,主要是因为担心它会缩短购物时间。户外商场里挤满了中国游客;Sino Coach、Lion Express和Eagle Tours等旅行社的旅游巴士都停在外面。我们的大客车在一个下客点停下时,大家都赶紧起身。我努力地跟上了一对老夫妇,他们是钟道(音译)和狄平(音译)。我跟着他们跑向拉尔夫·劳伦(Polo Ralph Lauren)的一家门店。

    我们一进店里,钟道就开始翻看一架子的Polo衫。钟道是一名退休教师,她留着丽莎•明妮莉那样的发型。她摘出一件薰衣草色的衬衫,拿出一小张写着她儿媳衣服尺码的纸比对。她通过一位导游翻译告诉我:“我们很期待来这里。”她又问导游这里是不是可以讨价还价?对方无奈地摇了摇头。

    这对今年都已经66岁的夫妻共买了12件Polo衫,这在中国游客中还算是少的。室外,数十名游客在长凳上休息,周围堆满了购物袋。钟道告诉我,这是她和丈夫第一次来美国。以前他们只是在电影里看到过美国。她说:“我们希望亲眼看看它。”

    而在几年前,中国旅游团是被禁止到美国游玩的。到2007年,两国签署了一份备忘录,取消了这个限制,并因此引发了中国人的赴美旅游大潮。2011年,超过100万中国游客来到美国,远高于2008年的49.3万人。美国商务部(Commerce Department)预计2011年至2017年之间赴美中国游客数量将增长259%。随着更多中国人成为中产阶层,他们越来越接受休闲旅游的概念。现在,来自中国的旅行团在世界各大城市无处不在,已取代日本游客成为全球受欢迎的购物豪客。

    发达经济体正从中获益。中国游客赴美游玩每趟花费约6,000美元,超过任何其他国家的游客。由于中国游客在美国的支出在技术上属于美国的出口,2011年美国对中国出现了高达44亿美元的旅游业顺差,而2006年为6.87亿美元的逆差。

    游客消费的激增为美国经济的一个结构性问题带来了体面的解决方案——既可以让美国受益于新兴市场的增长,同时又能发挥自身优势,包括它的流行文化、安全性,以及庞大的服务从业人员群体。超过540万的美国人是旅游业从业人员,他们的工作是无法轻易外包的。旅游业是成熟经济体仍然跑赢新兴经济体的少数领域之一,主要是因为来自第三世界国家的人希望去第一世界游玩。

    Halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Tanger outlet mall appeared in the distance, its towering sign beckoning like an oasis. The people on our bus started to titter with excitement. I was sitting with 52 Chinese tourists, mostly elderly retirees from Shanghai, and very few of them spoke English. But as we pulled into the mall's parking lot, they leaned up against the windows and called out familiar words: "Polo! Tommy! Reebok!"

    We were supposed to stop for lunch at a nearby Panda Express, but the group unanimously vetoed a sit-down meal, fearing it would cut into shopping time. The outdoor mall was packed with Chinese tourists; buses from Sino Coach, Lion Express, and Eagle Tours were parked outside. As our motor coach lurched to a stop, everyone sprang up. I struggled to keep up with an older couple, Zhong Dao and Di Ping, as they bolted toward Polo Ralph Lauren (RL).

    As soon as we arrived, Zhong Dao, a retired teacher with a haircut like Liza Minnelli's, began riffling through a rack of polo shirts. She plucked a lavender one and pulled out a scrap of paper with her daughter-in-law's measurements. "We had great expectations for this," she told a staffer from our tour company, who translated her remarks for me. She asked him if it was possible to bargain down the price. He shook his head ruefully.

    The couple, both 66, bought 12 polo shirts -- a relatively modest haul. Outside, dozens of tourists rested on benches surrounded by mountains of shopping bags. Zhong Dao told me that this was her and her husband's first visit to the U.S. Before, they had only witnessed America in the movies. "We wanted to come see it with our own eyes," she said.

    Until a few years ago Chinese tour groups were forbidden from traveling to the U.S. Then, in 2007, the two countries signed a memorandum that reversed this restriction -- and unleashed a tidal wave of tourism. More than 1 million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. in 2011, up from 493,000 in 2008. The Commerce Department expects arrivals to rise 259% between 2011 and 2017. As more Chinese people join the middle class, they are embracing the concept of leisure travel. Tour groups from China are now ubiquitous in major cities, supplanting Japanese travelers as the world's most sought-after big spenders.

    Advanced economies are reaping the benefits. Chinese tourists in America spend about $6,000 per trip, more than visitors from any other country. Because their expenditures are technically exports, the U.S. ran a whopping $4.4 billion surplus in travel and tourism with China in 2011, up from a $687 million deficit in 2006.

    The surge in tourist spending offers an elegant solution to one of the economy's structural problems -- a way for the U.S. to tap into the growth in emerging markets while exploiting its own strengths, including its popular culture, its safety, and its large service workforce. More than 5.4 million Americans work in travel and tourism, and their jobs cannot be easily outsourced. Tourism is one of the few areas in which mature economies are still outperforming emerging ones, mainly because people from Third World countries want to visit First World ones.

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