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China accounts for 21% of int’l tourism spending – UNWTO

China’s increasingly lucrative outbound tourism market has “great potential” for future growth, and this, in turn, has generated “tremendous business opportunities” for tourist destinations across the world.

Chinese tourism UK London

China is now the world’s largest source of outbound tourists

That’s according to a new study carried out by the World Tourism Organisation, in conjunction with the Regional Program for Asia and the Pacific in collaboration with the Program for Statistics, Trends and Policy.

Penetrating the Chinese Outbound Tourism Market demonstrates that China is now the world’s largest source of outbound tourists. In the report, UNWTO’s secretary-general Taleb Rifai notes this was in terms of both quantity of trips abroad and expenditure.

“China has become a key source market not only for many destinations in Asia and the Pacific but also for destinations in other regions of the world which see a steady influx and growing interest from Chinese tourists,” he said.

In 2012, China became the world’s top spender in international tourism and has since led global outbound travel. Tourism expenditure from China surged from $24 billion in 2006 (3% of the world’s total) to $261 billion in 2016, or 21% of the world’s international tourism spending.

“Tourists now are spread across South-East Asia, Africa, North and South America and even the Polar regions”

Over 1,235 million international tourist arrivals were recorded globally in 2016, some 47 million more than in 2015, or an increase of 3.9%, according to the latest issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. 

Europe is the most visited region in the world with 615 million arrivals in 2016, equivalent to half of the world’s total, followed by Asia and the Pacific, which recorded 309 million arrivals or 25%.

The Americas welcomed 200 million international tourists or 16% of the global figure. Africa represents 5% of international arrivals and the Middle East received 4%.

The study argues that the catalyst for this substantial growth in outbound travel began at the turn of the 21st century when a combination of “increasingly loosened policies, diversifying consumer demands and profound changes in the market” saw numbers rise rapidly.

“US and Canadian products are targeting students and providing tours of overseas schools”

The number of outbound tourists maintained double-digit percentage growth each year from 2002 to 2013, with the number of Chinese outbound tourists surpassing a record 100 million mark in 2014.

The report noted that China’s millennial demographic make up the bulk of the country’s outbound tourists. This age group is also responsible for the development of the sophisticated Chinese free independent market, known as FIT.

“The Chinese FIT market is extended to increasingly distant destinations. Tourists now are spread across South-East Asia, Africa, North and South America and even the Polar regions,” the report noted.

The paper also provides detailed recommendations on strategic planning and marketing approaches when entering the Chinese outbound tourism market.

It highlights how many destinations have “successfully expanded business into the Chinese market by developing a Chinese market-focused strategic plan and taking tailored marketing approaches to adapt to the characteristics of the Chinese market.”

US and Canadian products are targeting students and providing tours of overseas schools during the months of July and August, when Chinese students take summer vacations.

Japan has extended its multiple-entry visa for China’s business, cultural and artistic visits from five to ten years and also simplified “the procedures of single-entry visas for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying in 75 colleges and universities directly under the Ministry of Education.”

The report concludes that global destinations were optimistic about the continued growth of the outbound tourism market and that countries would continue to compete to attract Chinese tourists.

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