A recent boom in foreign travel by Chinese tourists has made China the largest market for the world travelers for three years running. Chinese tourists overseas were worth 1.1 trillion yuan ($169.5 billion) making 120 million overseas trips in 2015, according to statistics from China Tourism Academy.
China’s outbound tourism market has seen strong growth in the last few years, increasing by more than 12% annually since 2009.
In 2013 China surpassed Germany and the US for the first time, with Chinese tourists making 98 million trips overseas and a total expenditure of $102 billion.
The numbers have kept increasing, with overseas trips exceeding 100 million for the first time in 2014, making it a landmark year for China’s tourism industry. The rocketing growth has meant there are now 10 times more overseas trips compared with 1998, the first year to collect statistics on Chinese people’s overseas trips, which put it at a minimal 8.43 million trips that year.
The newly released report by China Tourism Academy said that Thailand, Japan and South Korea are among the top destinations for Chinese tourists, but western countries are also increasingly popular despite higher airfares and catering costs.
With their deeper pockets, Chinese tourists have a stronger motive than merely sightseeing to fly a hemisphere away from home – a shopping binge. On average they now spend 11,625 yuan ($1,791.2) per person, an increase of 24.1% from 8,820 yuan($1,359) in 2014. Liang Jianzhang, chief executive of Ctrip.com, the largest tour booking website in China, said many overseas hot spots are popular shopping destinations such as Japan, the US, and Italy.
The rising number of Chinese tourists combined with their increased spending power has had knock on effects. Apparently, the overseas hosts have seen the Chinese people’s consumption potential, which has pushed many to introduce favorable policies to attract Chinese buyers.
Since January 2015, Japan has extended the validation time of multiple-entry visas for Chinese individual visitors to five years from the previous three years. The Japanese government is also mulling over the idea of lowering the tax refund threshold for foreign visitors to 5,000 yen ($41.5), which is expected to come into effect from next year.
Even the cautious US has ambitions to win more Chinese visitors. It has extended the validation range of multiple-entry visas for Chinese individual visitors to ten years since November 2014, and the governments from both sides will make 2016 “Year of Sino-US Tourism” to make it easier for tourists from each country to visit.
Meanwhile South Korea has also shown its desire to tap into the lucrative market of its Chinese neighbors, as the government is considering a visa-free policy for Chinese visitors. China is one of the largest overseas markets for South Korean cosmetics and electronics.
With all this competition around the world to attract Chinese visitors it doesn’t look like the tourism boom is going to end anytime soon.