Going mobile

Updated: 2016-01-08 07:53

By Li Jing and Yang Feiyue(China Daily Europe)

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Founded in 2010, Mafengwo is a major tourist information-sharing website and has invested heavily in its mobile Internet services. The company says its app, launched in 2015, has been downloaded 280 million times and has more than 80 million active users.

"The future for tourism apps lies in tapping local resources," says Feng Yao, Mafengwo's director of tourism research, adding that Mafengwo opened scores of offices in overseas markets in 2015, such as in Phuket and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and are now working with local tourism companies to offer services at lower prices directly to users.

Shanghai-based Dianping, a business listings website similar to Yelp, has also extended its reach to 860 cities in more than 200 countries and regions overseas, with the most-common searches being for services in Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

Thanks to the technology, industry insiders and analysts see no slowdown ahead for the growth in outbound tourism in China.

VisitBritain, the official tourism board of the United Kingdom, expects Chinese travelers to be spending more than 1 billion pounds ($1.47 billion; 1.35 billion euros) a year in the country by 2020. By that year, the annual number of Chinese visitors to the US is also forecast to double to 4 million, according to US National Travel and Tourism Office.

"Undoubtedly, 2015 will mark the fourth consecutive year of China as the world's top source for tourists," says Jiang Yiyi, director of the International Tourism Development Institute.

"The major reason for the growth lies in the policy changes that began in 1997 to enable more Chinese to travel abroad, which unleashed a high demand for overseas travel," she says. "Since then, increased disposable incomes, extended national holidays, relaxed visa restrictions for Chinese travelers and the rising value of the renminbi (China's currency) have all contributed to the boom."

Some have compared the current trend to when Japanese tourists began going abroad three decades ago. From the mid-1980s through to the 1990s, the number of Japanese heading overseas swelled from 4 million to 16 million, while at the same time the nation's per capita GDP rose from $10,000 to $35,000.