Understanding the big picture and the importance of international tourists

Part one: Understanding the big picture and the importance of international tourists.

I have spent nearly ten years living, traveling, and working in East and Southeast Asia. While living in South Korea and Thailand for most of that time, I occasionally visited other countries in the regions, such as Japan, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China. Given the close proximity of these countries to one another it would only require a short, one-hour flight; however, traveling to these locations to/from the United States will take anywhere from 12 hours to more than 24 depending on where you depart from and arrive to. The experience of being a traveler in a foreign country gives me a unique perspective on travelers to the U.S.

The United States receives a large number of international visitors annually. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2014, there were nearly 75 million international visitors to the United States. The National Travel and Tourism Office reported nearly 2.2 million of these visitors were from China, which was an increase by nearly a half-million people from the previous year. The increase and frequency of travel between the two countries has prompted both governments to agree to extending travel visas for short-term business, travelers, tourists and students. In fact, to encourage travel and make it easier for Chinese to visit Michigan, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2014 launched a version of the Travel Michigan website in Chinese: TravelMichigan.cn

As restrictions on travel have loosened for some international visitors and visitations are increasing, what can we do as American ambassadors and hosts of our communities as international visitors from China and other Asian countries arrive?

Tourism in Michigan is essential to our economic development as a state, and sustaining this industry is imperative to our revitalization and resiliency to future challenges. MSU Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism.

Part two - ways individuals and communities can be culturally aware and prepared for not only Chinese tourists, but other Asian cultures as well

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