Cover Story

Exploring beyond the borders

Updated: 2011-07-08 11:03

By Jiang Yiyi (China Daily European Weekly)

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As spending power grows, so does outbound tourism

The outbound tourism market in China has been flourishing for the past few years.

In 2010, nearly 57.39 million Chinese people traveled overseas, up 20.4 percent from 2009.

Tourism authorities have made great efforts in recent times to boost outbound tourism. Besides, in recent years, the growing number of outbound destinations has also helped nurture a benign market environment. With incomes continuing to improve, there has also been a surge in overseas travel.

Most of the outbound travel from China is now for private purposes. Ordinary Chinese citizens are now keen to experience different cultures and it is this burgeoning demand for travel that has spurred the fast development of outbound tourism.

Last year, Chinese tourists traveled to 141 countries and regions, with the number of official tourist destinations going up to 110. The outbound surge was also fueled by events such as the soccer World Cup in South Africa, which also prompted increased trips to Africa and Oceania.

Although the majority of Chinese mainland tourists still prefer Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, South Korea and other neighboring countries and regions as the main destinations, the number of visitors to Europe, America and Africa is also growing. Travelers to countries such as Iceland, South Africa, and Mauritius have also grown sharply.

By the end of this year, all regions in Taiwan will be open to tourists. Thanks to the growing number of travel agencies and the establishment of tourism offices, the number of mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan will also grow significantly and is estimated to reach 1.22 million trips this year.

Chinese tourists are also increasingly favoring outbound travel for business meetings, study trips and exchange programs.

People travel to different destinations for different purposes. So while it is shopping in Hong Kong and France, it is honeymoon trips in the Maldives and Greece, and skiing for South Korea and Switzerland. The purpose of outbound tourism has changed from sheer sightseeing to experiencing different cultures.

According to the latest statistics from the World Tourism Organization, between January to August 2010, Chinese people's expenditure during overseas travels increased by 22 percent, ranking the third in the world in terms of growth.

Currently Chinese people's expenditure during outbound tourism is fourth in the world, behind France, the US and Spain. The consumption capacity for luxury goods is especially astonishing. A report by the World Luxury Association in 2011 shows that the total sales of luxury items in the Chinese mainland reached 7.42 billion euros (private planes, yachts and luxury cars excluded), accounting for one-fourth of the global total. In response to the increasing consumption of Chinese tourists, tourism authorities in destination countries have also enhanced their service levels, by setting up liaison offices in China, adding more services in the Chinese language and recruiting Chinese tour guides.

Compared with previous years, the proportion of senior tourists increased to some extent. As the Chinese society ages, senior tourists in outbound tourism market are also expected to be the new catalysts of growth.

By April 2010, the number of Chinese netizens reached 404 million. Most visitors do their research online before departure. Internet booking is also growing. In 2009, the revenue from online travel booking was 3.89 billion yuan (417.4 million euros), up by 32.3 percent compared to 2008. The number is expected to reach 5.4 billion yuan in 2010.

The author is a researcher with the Chinese Tourism Academy.


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