Overseas travel on the rise

Updated: 2013-11-06 09:51

By Wang Wen (China Daily)

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Summer heats up

Chinese travel agencies have been having busy summers. And Dai Bin, head of the CTA, said that overseas spending by Chinese tourists was 10 times higher than domestic tourists' spending last year.

The third quarter is a traditional peak season for tourism, and the number of travelers has doubled at that time during the past several years, said Zhang Lei, general manager of Utour International Travel Service Co Ltd.

Chinese families are becoming used to taking vacations abroad, and parents usually use their annual leave in the summer to travel with their children, he said.

Travel agencies also promote family-oriented tours during the season.

Themed vacations, such as those featuring visits to famous universities, museums and amusement parks, accounted for about 70 percent of Utour's products in the third quarter, Zhang said.

The travel agency is very optimistic about its business for 2013. "This year's outbound tourism will have faster growth than last year for sure, although the exact number isn't clear yet," Zhang said.

The nation's outbound tourism market is becoming more diversified, offering something for almost any age or income, he said.

More travelers

Encouraging developments on the visa front might mean even more overseas trips. Zhang noted that getting a visa is a key hurdle for many Chinese outbound travelers.

Mauritius, the island country in Africa, began offering a visa exemption for Chinese travelers at end-October. China and Thailand are also talking about bilateral visa exemptions for tourists.

The United Kingdom announced an easier visa application process for Chinese travelers this month.

"Many Chinese travelers will be encouraged by the easier visa application to the UK," said Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of Visit Britain, the UK's national tourism agency.

Chinese travel agencies and airlines have already started to prepare for the new business that will be generated by these moves.

Ctrip, the largest online travel agency in China, will add new offerings for Thailand when the visa-free policy takes effect, said Pu Yue, production manager of Ctrip's tourism department.

It's already relatively easy to get a Thai tourist visa, Pu noted. But even if there's no explosion in visitor numbers, "more independent travelers will visit the country, if they do not need to apply for a visa," she said.

She estimated that more than 20,000 Chinese travelers will visit Thailand through Ctrip this year, as Thailand is Chinese travelers' first choice in Southeast Asia.

Domestic and foreign airlines are expanding their routes to handle the increase in tourism.

During the coming winter-spring season, 23 new international routes will be added in China. Some of the new services will be medium- and long-haul routes, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

"According to our experience, the visa-free policy will definitely push up the passenger flows," said Ding Yue, a spokesman of Air China Ltd.

Changes in visa policies won't affect the carrier's flight schedules in the short term, as adding new routes is a very complicated process. But Air China will launch a non-stop route between Beijing and Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Thursday, offering three flights weekly.

The new route is a result of "huge demand" by international travelers, Ding said.

Thai Airways International Public Co Ltd added the Chinese cities of Chongqing, and Changsha, Hunan province, to its network on Oct 27, taking its destinations in China to eight.



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