Where Chinese Are Traveling in 2016
Chinese travelers take more trips than any other demographic, they spend more money than any other group in the world and they have the largest impact on international tourism. They spent $194 billion in 2015 — $30 billion more than in 2014 — and they accounted for 120 million total overseas travelers in 2015, more than any other country in the world. Simply put, Chinese travel isn’t slowing down.
To help make sense of the future of Chinese international travel and gain insight into where they are traveling in 2016, Resonance’s 2016 Future of Chinese International Travel Report analyzes 1.2 million reviews of 94,000 attractions around the world on Qyer.com — a TripAdvisor-like site popular with young independent Chinese travelers.
Asia is predictably the most popular region to visit according to positive reviews on Qyer.com, followed by Europe, Southeast Asia and North America to round out the top four. But future trends signal change is coming.
TREADING LOCAL WATERS
Hong Kong welcomed 47 million Mainland Chinese visitors in 2014, more than six times Hong Kong’s own population. The combination of no sales tax and Hong Kong’s reputation for selling authentic goods helps explain why so many Chinese have visited Hong Kong over the past two years. But based on a report by top Chinese brokerage and investment group CLSA, the projections for future travel to Hong Kong is not good.
Inbound Chinese tourist numbers to Hong Kong declined dramatically in 2015. A lack of new attractions, capacity constraints, attitudes about mainlanders, and a reduction on import tariffs in China are a few of the reasons for the slowdown reported by both Hong Kong and Chinese media. Chinese tourists, who account for almost 80 percent of all tourist flow into Hong Kong, saw a drop of two percent between Jan-Nov 2015 compared to 16–26 percent annual growth between 2010–2014. Meanwhile Australia, Japan and Thailand are thriving.
Mainland Chinese travelers make up the second-largest source of inbound arrivals to Australia, with more than one-million arrivals between Jan-Nov 2015. This resulted in an increase of 21.6 percent over the same period in 2014. Chinese tourists spent $5.2 billion USD in Australia from September 2014 to September 2015, up from $2.5 billion USD two years prior, according to Tourism Australia. China is Australia’s most important inbound nationality by spend and is more than double the next most important region, the UK.
Chinese tourists visiting Japan in 2015 doubled from 2014, from 2.4 million to 5 million; CLSA predicts the number to double again by 2020 to 11.4 million. The Wall Street Journal listed Japan as the destination most preferred by Chinese tourists in 2015, and of more than 4,300 respondents to a TravelZoo Asia Pacific survey, nearly 40 percent of Chinese listed Japan as their most sought out global destination. The weaker yen has helped attract Chinese visitors to Japan, and changes to visa regulations by the Japanese government to encourage foreign visitors has also played a major role. A January 2015 policy change now allows high-income Chinese visitors multiple-entry visas. These visas are valid for up to five years, instead of three years under the previous rule. Australia has also seen similar visa policy concessions and a growth in airline-seat capacity.
In Thailand, Chinese tourists have grown at an annual rate of 47.7 percent over the past five years; the growth rate of non-Chinese tourists during the same period is a mere 7.6 percent.
As Resonance’s study shows, Asian countries remain a tried and true preference of the Chinese market. In 2014, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan accounted for 70.4 percent of departures. By adding the rest of Asia, the figure jumps to nearly 90 percent. Chinese travelers have yet to really scratch the surface of international travel, but as they acquire more travel experience, they will go further beyond local waters — straight into Europe’s arms.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
France is the third ranked global destination among Chinese travelers, with 40,316 positive reviews according to Resonance’s study. France was the highest-ranked European country on the Chinese traveler wish list for 2015, and is also considered the most welcoming European nation among Chinese according to the Chinese International Travel Monitor.
But France offers more than just opportunities for selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower; it also offers easy access.
In January 2014 the visa application process for Chinese visiting France was reduced from 12 days to two days. During the 1st quarter of 2015 the French government issued 56 percent more visas to Chinese nationals, resulting in a 50 percent increase in Chinese visitors to France year over year. France also began offering 48-hour express visas for Chinese nationals in early 2015, allowing multiple entries valid for up to five years.
France set up visa centers in 15 Chinese cities that didn’t previously have embassies or consulates for EU nations to assist Chinese applying for visas within Mainland China. These policies and advancements — including a new internship program aimed at increasing the number of Chinese students in France from 30,000 to 50,000 — is one of the reasons why so many Chinese have warmed up to visiting one of Europe’s cultural capitals.
And it isn’t the only European nation welcoming Chinese tourists, according to Forbes. Spain and Norway attracted more than 60 percent more visitors year over year during the first three quarters of 2015; Croatia welcomed 56 percent more, Austria 49 percent and Finland 44 percent more than the previous year.
While Asia is still the leading region for Chinese travelers, the rest of the world are ones to watch in 2016 and beyond.
To learn more about where Chinese are traveling to, as well as their preferences for shopping, sightseeing and cultural experiences, download the free 2016 Future of Chinese International Travel Report