On September 1, 2004, an Air China flight left Beijing bound for Paris. On board was a group of 50 Chinese tourists, heralding Europe's entry into the battle for the China (PRC) outbound market. Chinese nationals are now able to join group tours to 29 European countries without applying for special permission.
European NTOs are so eager to attract the China (PRC) market that some are teaming up to maximise length of stay. Recently, the tourism boards of France, Germany, Finland and Switzerland announced a co-operative effort to create special tour packages featuring the attractions of the four countries.
Air capacity between Europe and China (PRC) is small compared to the capacity between Asia and China, however it has grown 61% since September 2003, compared to 13% between Asia and China. Competitive pressures will not only come from Europe. Following the China (PRC)-US aviation agreement reached in July, weekly flights between the US and China (PRC) could soon increase from 54 to 249.
"Asia Pacific NTOs cannot afford to assume that Chinese tourists will travel close to home," said PATA Managing Director-Strategic Intelligence Centre Mr John Koldowski. "The whole world wants a slice of China's huge, growing and increasingly liberal market."
- In 2003, Asia Pacific destinations received more than 18.2 million arrivals from China (PRC), an increase of almost 16% over 2002. However, the bulk went to Hong Kong and Macau. The rest of Asia Pacific suffered a -14% drop in arrivals from China (PRC), to a little over four million. PATA Annual Statistical Report 2003
- A new regulation issued by the Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam allows Chinese visitors carrying travel permits to visit all 64 provinces. Vietnam previously allowed Chinese visitors to tour only seven provinces in the country's north.
- China (PRC) and Hong Kong have announced a new aviation agreement that opens up the mainland for Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Mainland carriers will now be able to serve more onward destinations from Hong Kong.