Chinese move into 1st place in tourism spending

Updated: 2013-04-06 08:18

(China Daily/Agencies)

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Chinese tourists have overtaken Germans as the world's biggest-spending travelers after a decade of robust growth in the number of Chinese vacationing abroad, the United Nations World Tourism Organization said on Thursday.

Chinese tourists, known for traveling in organized tours and snapping up luxury fashion abroad, spent $102 billion on foreign trips last year, outstripping deep-pocketed travelers from Germany and the United States.

Chinese tourists spent 41 percent more on foreign travel in 2012 than the year before, beating the close to $84 billion both German and US travelers parted with last year.

Tourists from other fast-growing economies with swelling middle classes, such as Russia and Brazil, also increased spending in 2012. In recession-hit Europe, however, French and Italian tourists reined in their vacation budgets.

"The impressive growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects the entry into the tourism market of a growing middle class from these countries," said Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization, which is based in Madrid.

The German Travel Association said it was to be expected that the Chinese tourists would eventually overtake Germans in spending, given that the country had more inhabitants than North America, Russia and Europe put together.

"But that they have overtaken us already is astonishing," said Juergen Buechy, president of the German association.

The Chinese make more long-haul trips than Germans, who typically go to Mediterranean destinations, meaning that the average vacation spending was greater, he added.

China is the world's fastest-growing tourist-source market, thanks to higher disposable incomes in the world's second-largest economy and looser foreign travel restrictions.

Chinese tourists made 83 million foreign trips in 2012, compared with 10 million in 2000.

Hoteliers, tour companies, restaurants and even taxi drivers will need to brush up on their knowledge of Chinese cuisine, culture and language if they are to tempt them away from favorite destinations such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Maldives, European tourism officials have said.

Other countries in the top 10 posted growth in travel spending, though only Russia came close to China's huge growth, with a 32 percent increase in vacation budgets.

By Reuters in Madrid