The first time I traveled internationally was in 1994, when I went to Japan with a friend. We were, by far, two of only a handful of U.S. citizens we saw during our 3 weeks there, to the point that when we went to Tokyo Disneyland, we were thrilled to be able to speak English to the guy that cut silhouettes on Main Street, because he was American. We heard some German here and there during our trip, but English? Hardly at all.
We saw/heard more Americans during our trip to England and Paris in 1995 but that would make sense – it was still more “comfortable” to visit Europe than halfway around the world in the “Far East,” especially in the age when the internet wasn’t around to help. So, of course, there were many more Americans there in comparison to Japan the previous year.
Fast forward 20+ years, and a whole lot has changed…
Even traveling in the U.S., the demographics of the tourists in the touristy areas seemed to have changed significantly over the years. If you go to the Grand Canyon, New York City, or just about any big tourist destination nowadays, you’ll experience lots and LOTS of tour buses filled with people who speak Chinese. Much more so than, say, 20 years ago.
At first, I thought it was just me. But nope, according to a study done by Skift and the World Tourism Organization, that’s definitely been the trend as the years have gone by. Take a look at this video:
Wow. While the U.S. has increased from 53 million annual international travel departures to just shy 87 million between 1997 and 2017, the amount of travelers from China has gone from less than 6 million to over 143 million in the same 20 years!
As someone who loves to travel, and who remembers a time when people in certain countries were said to not be allowed to travel, or didn’t have the money to do so, I’m glad they finally can and do. Sure, it makes some places more crowded. But honestly, traveling is wonderful and should be available to everyone. And if it means I have to wait an extra couple of minutes to take my picture until their group continues on, that’s OK. After all, it’s not just about me. Travel, and the spoils of it, are for everyone. I’m glad more people are able to do it.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary