More mainland Chinese will travel overseas during this Chinese New Year and over half are expected to travel with family. Asian destinations are set to gain an even bigger share of this “mass migration” but Europe, after seeing a dip in China arrivals due to security fears, may also rejoice. Here are four notable Chinese New Year 2017 trends:
1. Rise in family travel
According to ForwardKeys, which analyzes 16 million booking transactions a day, family travel is the fastest-growing segment in China’s outbound travel market this Chinese New Year. As of December 30, 2016, there was an 18% rise in bookings made by families of up to four members for travel during this holiday season compared to last year.
This segment constitutes 51% of the Chinese New Year overseas travel pie this year, notes ForwardKeys.
Wego is also seeing an increase in multi-generational family travel. According to the travel search engine, one of the main reasons for that is the increase in the number of young relocated Chinese professionals who are flying their parents and families over instead of going back home themselves. And in some cases, they are opting for family holidays at other destinations. This applies to those Chinese who relocated to first-tier cities in China, such as Shanghai or Beijing, and those who are residing and working overseas.
“Young professionals living away from home are willing to spend more money to ensure their ageing parents especially travel in comfort by booking full service flights for them,” says James Huang, Wego’s market development manager for North Asia.
As for accommodation, he points out that they are mostly opting for family-friendly hotels close to public transport in modern cities such as Tokyo and London. And for destinations outside Asia, “they’ll select hotels which cater to Chinese tastes with familiar meals such as congee or hotpot, as elderly family members are less likely to adapt to Western food,“ adds Huang.
2. Revival in Europe travel
While 2016 saw a 7.4% dip in the number of travel bookings to Europe, things are looking up again this Chinese New Year according to ForwardKeys. Although security concerns over terror attacks – which were most likely the reason for last year’s decline – remain, bookings to Europe were up by 56% for travel over the Chinese New Year in 2017, with destinations in Northern and Central/Eastern Europe gaining popularity.
However, bookings to Turkey are exceptionally low, decreasing by 14% as recent terror attacks there continue to hit the country’s tourism sector hard. Popular European destinations for Chinese travelers include Spain, which is the fastest growing (89%), followed closely by the UK (88%), and Italy (59%). And despite suffering numerous terrorist attacks, France is also attracting travelers with an increase of 49% in bookings based on ForwardKeys’ analysis.
“Europe is experiencing a rebound effect from last year’s setbacks due to terrorist attacks. What has also helped are new routes and improved connectivity to various European destinations, specifically the Czech Republic (+370% seat capacity in January 2017), Spain (+178%), Austria (+49%), UK (+9.3%) and Russia (+8.0%),” explains ForwardKeys’ CEO, Olivier Jager.
According to him, while there is no doubt that outbound Chinese travelling abroad for the New Year is a driver of global growth, the evolution of their travel trends is interesting as well. “Chinese travelers are becoming more adventurous; they are prepared to seek out new destinations. What’s also notable is the return to Europe, demonstrating tourism’s resilience to the terrorist threats that impacted the region last year,” adds Jager.
3. Asian destinations are still most popular
While bookings to Europe are on the rise, Asian destinations are still getting the biggest share when it comes to Chinese New Year travel. Leading Chinese online travel portal Ctrip reports that all but one of the top 10 overseas destinations for Chinese tourists are in Asia-Pacific with Thailand being most popular and Japan coming second. The U.S. lands the third spot followed by Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.
Similarly, Hotels.com’s and Skyscanner’s top 10 searches for travel bookings during the holidays, as well as Airbnb’s top 8 overseas destinations for Chinese New Year, are mostly Asia-centric. This trend might have been boosted by the increasing number of direct flights from Chinese cities to Asian destinations, cheaper airfares, and a move by some countries to ease visa rules for Chinese nationals.
For instance, Hainan Airlines launched a direct flight from Changsha to Sydney last July with a promotional airfare of less than US$100 while Singapore-based budget airline SilkAir has launched a direct flight from Fuzhou to the Lion City.
On the visa front, as of last November, Chinese nationals have become eligible for a multiple entry 10-year visa to Australia. South-east Asian countries followed suit with Cambodia granting them a three-year multiple entry visa and Malaysia introducing their e-visa services last March.
4. Overseas travel spend holds steady
Ctrip expects spending of 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) this New Year by around six million Chinese travelling outside the country. Last year’s holiday period saw an economic impact of 90 billion yuan from overseas travel by 5.2 million Chinese, according to research jointly compiled by China National Tourism Administration and Ctrip.
“Although global economic conditions, weather-related events and tragic international incidents would hint at slower domestic and international travel, voyages and prices paid by Chinese travellers to popular global destinations remained strong,” said Jessica Chuang, regional marketing director Greater China, South-east Asia and India for Hotels.com.
“Chinese travelers prefer to stay in hotels, and do not like them to be below three stars: 78% prefer three stars or more, despite the economic downturn. The Chinese are among the biggest spenders on tourism. Outbound travelers spend RMB22,592 on travel a year – almost a quarter of their income.”
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