Chinese outbound travel to exceed 80 million trips in 2012.
Tuesday, 14th February 2012
Source : COTRI
China has had yet another year of massive growth in terms of outbound tourism, confirming the predictions made by COTRI at the beginning of 2011.

The China Tourism Academy (CTA) put the final figures as approximately 70 million trips overseas in 2011, an increase of more than 20% from the 57.4 million trips in 2010.

The 13 million jump from 2010 to 2011 corroborates the prediction made by the Director of COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, Professor Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, who in January 2011 boldly said to expect a double-figure increase, despite the conservative estimates made by others in the field.

China hot on the heels of the largest tourism source markets

China ranks in third place as a global outbound tourism source market, however it is closely following the two greatest source markets with very narrow margins. Germany and the USA hold on to the two top positions, yet the gap between the three countries is decreasing and predictions that the future of international tourism lies with China still stand strong.

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UNWTO United Nations World Tourism Organisation, recently claimed "we can expect to see China become the number one country in terms of both receiving and sending tourists in the next five to seven years". A study by Commerzbank in Germany arrives at a similar conclusion; according to Jutta Kayser-Tilos, an economist at Commerzbank, "against the backdrop of continued strong growth of the Chinese economy, it is expected that the title of „Travel World Champion‟ will soon go to China". For many destinations, including non-neighbouring countries like Australia or the Maldives, China is already the most important inbound tourism source market today.

Chinese tourists are spending more than ever

CTA have reported that the tourism spending of Chinese consumers is now over 69 billion USD, a massive increase on the 55 billion USD spent by Chinese tourists in 2010. Figures from Commerzbank show that China holds a steady third position in terms of spending:

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As Prof. Dr. Arlt argued in 2011, without any major setbacks to dissuade Chinese spending, the affluent middle and upper classes are "showing off to the world their increased purchasing power in the major tourism destinations".

Luxury tourism develops

China‟s upper class is constantly growing, and soon there will be more millionaires in China than any other country. Luxury travel has made vast leaps; according to the Chinese Millionaires Wealth Report 2011 published by Hurun, the percentage of wealthy Chinese people that travel is now 29%, a large increase compared to 2009 when only 16% travelled.

Chinese millionaires have taken on average three overseas trips in the past year, with female millionaires travelling more than male, and men more likely to travel for business.

The most popular times to travel have been the Chinese National Holiday in October, followed by Chinese New Year and the Labor Day Holiday in May. The major destinations that have been increasing in popularity for Chinese luxury tourists are France and Japan, whilst Hawaii has been losing favour.

France is also the number one shopping destination for Chinese tourists, with Germany in second place and then followed by the UK and Italy, according to Global Blue, a company which provides analysis of international shopping and spending habits.

It has been reported that in the past year there has been a 91% increase in Chinese traveller spending on shopping in destinations, likely due to the huge increase in numbers of travellers and the luxury market becoming more developed.

Evidence that New Chinese Tourists are emerging

COTRI has been widely sharing its discourse about the New Chinese Travellers, who opt to travel independently away from traditional group tours. According to a report by Global Blue, the majority of wealthy Chinese people choose to make their own bookings, and travel as free and individual tourists.

There has been a vast increase compared to the number of people who have claimed to do so in previous years, thus supporting COTRI analysis that this segment of the market is developing rapidly.

COTRI predicts 80+ million border crossings in 2012

Fifteen years ago, when the UNWTO forecast that by 2020 there will be over 100 million Chinese people travelling abroad it appeared to be wishful thinking, as the number was still below 10 million at that time. However, this 100 million mark will only be two more years away if growth continues at 20%.

This high growth is likely to be maintained, as Chinese citizens are benefitting from advances in transportation and communication, and policies set by the government in China and overseas continually becoming more open. The expanding tourist base will be demanding particular standards in order to meet their unique needs, challenging the assumption that "western" tourist behaviour is the norm in international tourism.

The Chinese economy will face serious challenges in the months ahead, with a return to double-digit GDP growth rates unlikely for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, status-enhancing overseas trips will continue to be an important aspect of the affluent Chinese consumers‟ expenditure. Looking to 2012, CTA expects an increase in Chinese outbound tourism of 12%, yet COTRI is again more optimistic.

Prof. Dr. Arlt predicts that "unless there are major natural disasters or a new contagious disease scare, in 2012 COTRI expects the number of border crossings from mainland China to surpass 80 million and the average spending per trip to surpass 1,000 USD".


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