China’s outbound tourism is growing steadily, with the number of tourists from mainland China climbing 18 percent in 2013 from the previous year, according to the China Tourism Academy (CTA). The total number of Chinese tourists was 98.19 million last year and they spent $128.7 billion abroad, said the CTA, an organization under the National Tourism Administration.
With these figures, China’s tourists have risen to the top in terms of money spent on international travel, overtaking those of Germany and the U.S. David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), said that the expanding middle class in Asian countries contributes the most to the growth in international tourism.
“Once you have enough disposable income to buy your refrigerator and your car, then you start to travel domestically and, ultimately, you start to travel internationally,” Scowsill said.
As a result of China’s outbound tourism growth, foreign countries have eased the travel requirements for its citizens. For one, Tunisia recently announced it will not be requiring Chinese tourists traveling as a group to secure a visa so long as each one presents a valid passport and hotel reservations.
A few days later, a new Ireland-U.K. visa program was launched whereby tourists from China will need only a single visa to travel to the two countries. But as outbound tourism has been showing significant developments, inbound tourism is exhibiting the reverse.
Since 2011, the number of foreigners traveling to China has been in a decline. About 10.12 million foreigners visited the country last year, a drop by 1.5 million from 2012. Analysts attribute a number of factors to the decrease, including the current political situations involving China.
“Crowded attractions and hotels in China, especially during national holidays, as well as conflicts with neighboring countries like Japan, have put people off visiting China,” said Vera Wang, an analyst at the market research firm Euromonitor.
Other reasons behind the decline are the pollution engulfing major cities, a stronger yuan, a still-recuperating global economy and China’s stringent visa requirements.