Travellers from mainland China have taken 100 million outbound trips for the first time this year, officials said, with the vast majority visiting Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Just under 4 per cent of the 100 million trips counted up to the end of last month were to Europe, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) said on Wednesday, while 90 per cent were within Asia. Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau were the tourists’ top destinations, accounting for nearly 71 per cent of the outbound trips.
“It is a landmark for the development of China’s tourism industry,” said administration official Zhang Jilin. “In 1998, we had only 8,430,000 outbound tourists, and now we have surpassed 100 million.”
The number of outbound tourists from the mainland reached 98.19 million in 2013, an 18 per cent year-on-year increase, according to the CNTA.
President Xi Jinping said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing last month that the number of outbound tourists from China will exceed 500 million in the next five years.
Six countries – South Korea, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and Singapore – have seen over a million trips by Chinese citizens so far this year, the CNTA said on its website. Mr Dai Bin, the head of the China Tourism Academy, said the booming outbound tourism benefits the economies of neighbouring countries and the region.
“The Chinese like to say, ‘a far-off relative is not as helpful as a near neighbour’,” said Mr Dai. “This is a very successful part of China’s diplomacy with its neighbours.”
China’s economy has boomed over the past decade, expanding the ranks of its middle class who are hungry for foreign travel after the country’s decades of isolation. European Union and Asian countries have moved to ease visa procedures for Chinese tourists in recent years, keen to cash in on their big-spending habits.
Mr Wan Yanyong, director of the Tourism Development and Planning Research Centre at Beijing Jiaotong University, said tourism to neighbouring countries and regions still has a lot of growth potential.
“Many Chinese outbound tourists recently went overseas for the first time,” he said. “They have to consider the cost and duration of a trip, language and cultural differences. To start with a neighbouring country is a good choice.”