February 4, 2020 / 4:46 PM / 18 days ago

Travel restrictions could cost U.S. $10.3 billion in Chinese visitor spending

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Travel restrictions related to the novel coronavirus from China could impact city and state economies across the United States, which have benefited from a huge jump in tourism from China in recent years, analysts say.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors take pictures near the brink of the ice covered Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/File Photo

Riverside, California, known for its citrus groves, mountain scenery and art galleries, and Buffalo, New York, the closest big town to the vast Niagara Falls, would be among the hardest hit in a list of places from big cities to tourist towns particularly popular with Chinese visitors.

Major U.S. airlines have suspended flights from China, and the Trump administration is barring foreign visitors who have been to mainland China over the past 14 days.

A fall-off in visits from China represents the “most immediate and direct link between the U.S. economy” and the virus, said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He projects real GDP growth at 1.7% this year, just below the U.S. economy’s 2% potential growth rate.

Visits from China to the United States have increased 1,270% since the SARS virus outbreak in 2002, to 2.8 million in 2019, according to Tourism Economics, part of research firm Oxford Economics.

The figure includes students and tourists both. About 15% of visitors from China indicate “education” as the purpose of their visit in the Department of Commerce Survey of International Air Travelers, Oxford Economics said.

The virus will result in a $10.3 billion loss in Chinese visitor spending in the United States, most of that in 2020, Oxford Economics estimates.

Each visitor spends an average of $6,000 per trip, not including airfare or money spent on education, the research firm says.

The impact of those losses won’t be spread evenly around the country. Visitors from China tend to flock to big United States cities like Los Angeles and New York City, Tourism Economics found:

Graphic: Top U.S. cities by overnight visits from China - here

However they also visit outlet shopping malls and national parks. When Chinese visits are evaluated as a percentage of overall overseas visitors, southern California’s Riverside is the most visited, and Buffalo, New York is near the top.

Graphic: China visits key from Riverside to Buffalo - here

FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo taken over the American side shows water flowing around ice due to subzero temperatures in Niagara Falls, New York, U.S. January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Dronebase/File Photo

On a state-by-state basis, California receives the greatest concentration of overseas visitors from China, followed by Utah.

Graphic: Chinese visitors fuel tourism in California, Utah - here

Reporting by Heather Timmons; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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