Chinese Travel Spending Surges

A new study reinforces the fact that China is one of the top global sources of tourists – in terms of both number of trips and money spent during international travel.

But it also reveals that there have been profound changes in the behaviour of the typical Chinese traveller, with Chinese Millennials firmly established as the core drivers of China’s outbound tourism spending.

To begin with Chinese travellers are looking for new destinations. Up until 2013, Hong Kong was the preferred destination for China’s outbound tourists, driven by its cultural similarity, lower travel costs and accessibility via short-distance travel.

On top of this, Hong Kong offered a shopping paradise, and that was a strong motivating factor for Chinese tourists at that time.

However since 2014, increasing numbers of China’s outbound tourists have been opting for other destinations that offer historical and cultural experiences, as well as shopping.

By the start of November 2015, the top five favorite destinations for Chinese travelers (counting air and overnight visits), were South Korea (representing a traveller increase of 112% since 2011), Thailand (up 263%), Hong Kong (up 37%), Japan (up 157%) and Taiwan (up 54%).

Europe remains the most popular destination for Chinese travelling outside of Asia, showing an increase of 97% in the number of air and overnight visits in the last four years.

It’s followed by North America (up 151%) and the Middle East (up 177%). Africa remains the destination least visited by Chinese tourists – but with signs that this could be changing, as visits have risen by 306 percent since 2011.

Laurens van den Oever, global head of travel and hospitality research at GfK, points out that: “China’s outbound tourists remain strategic to Hong Kong and its businesses – but other destinations are jumping ahead in winning their favor. Destinations such as Hong Kong need to re-evaluate China’s new breed of young and independently-minded travelers, to understand how best to attract them and capitalize on the growth of China’s outbound tourism.”

According to GfK data, half (50%) of China’s outbound travellers are aged 15-29 years old – the “millennials” group – while over a third (37%) are aged 30-44 and 10% are 45-59.

The sheer size of the millennial group within China’s travellers makes this a commercially attractive target audience for those destinations who are looking to draw in Chinese tourists.

This attraction is increased by the fact that two thirds (66%) of Chinese Millennials belong to the high income bracket.

Not only that, but their financial standing is expected to increase as their careers advance, since seven out of ten Millennials hold ‘white collar’ executive or professional jobs.

Understanding the desires that motivate this major section of China’s outbound travelers is therefore paramount.

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