Chinese officials have told American tour groups that they have “no choice” but to book Chinese tour groups in advance because of the US shutdown, according to a letter sent to tour companies.
The letter from the China Tourism Administration said the agency has been “very careful to advise tour companies that Chinese tour operators have to pay their tour expenses, including travel and hotel expenses.”
The letter was sent to the tour operators last month.
It says that since March, Chinese tour companies have “only been able to book through a third party website, tour-in-force.com, and have to obtain an official Chinese visa to travel to China,” which means it’s a big deal to them because it means the government will not allow the US to tour China, which would put the US and China on equal footing.
Tour operators are required to pay the government, including the $20,000 cost of visas, for the first two months of travel.
But as of Monday, Chinese authorities had decided that “the tour companies must not book through tour-ins-force, because the government is not allowing for the tours to take place.”
China’s tourism industry has been in trouble in recent years.
In 2012, a record number of Chinese tourists visited the US, a sign that Chinese tourists were starting to turn to other destinations like Canada and Europe.
Tour operators, however, say the government has not been clear about what exactly the restrictions mean, or how long it will be before Chinese tourists can tour the US.
China’s foreign ministry said last month that the Chinese government “remains willing to cooperate with US companies to improve the exchange of information and to promote exchange between Chinese and American tour companies.”
This week, the tour companies told the tour agency that they will have to find a way to meet the government’s requirements.
They also said they will “continue to work with US government agencies to facilitate the safe operation of US tours and tour-invites.”
The US Embassy in Beijing said Monday that the US would work closely with the Chinese authorities to provide assistance.
The embassy said the US will “provide all assistance needed” to Chinese tour guides, who are required by law to obtain a Chinese visa.