In 2006, the number of Chinese tourists who traveled abroad reached 34.52 million, a record high in history. From January to March of this year, the number already reached 9.7 million, 14.5% higher than in the same period last year.
Wu Wenxue, vice chairman of the China Tourism Association, said at a forum on tourism in Beijing, that China has become the fastest growing source of tourists in Asia. The fast growth of Chinese travelers going abroad has gained much attention from many destination countries throughout the world. Chinese tourists traveling abroad are changing the tourism pattern in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the pattern throughout the world.
The history of Chinese tourists traveling abroad is quite short. A decade or so before, people only traveled to Hong Kong and Macau to see their relatives. In 1992, only 2.93 million Chinese travelers went abroad, and most of them were part of government delegations. Civilians began traveling abroad just ten years ago and the rate of travel has been growing rapidly. Whenever golden weeks between May 1st and 7th and October 1st and 7th occur, there have been more people who want to travel abroad, according to a manager in the China International Tourism Agency. Currently traveling abroad has become an important part of the Chinese tourism industry. According to the State Tourism Bureau, Chinese who travel abroad share the following aims:
First, Asian countries are the first choice as tourist destinations. Southeast Asian countries were the earliest destinations open to Chinese tourists. In recent years, more and more people have chosen to go to South Korea and Kazakstan on holiday. Secondly, Europe has become a hot destination. With their splendid cultures and civilizations, European countries have attracted many Chinese tourists. Last year, Chinese citizens made 1.9 million visits to Europe. The number of people going to Great Britain has also increased- now 20% more than in the previous year.
In addition, a holiday tour has become a new way of travel, as people's quality of travel is increasing. The latest survey shows that more and more tourists like to choose one country, region or island on which to have a leisurely and high quality holiday. This is in stark contrast with previous holiday tours, such as ten days of traveling within eight European countries, which became very tiresome. Now people can choose to travel in the French countryside, a place along the Rhine River in Germany, or on an island in Thailand for a week.
With the fast development of Chinese tourism, there are also some issues worth noting. Xu Jing, director of the Asia Pacific Bureau of the World Tourism Organization, pointed out that Chinese traveling abroad face many problems; for example, there is not such a broad range of travel destinations since tourists are still traveling within the Asia-Pacific region. Travel time is still limited to the three long national holidays in China. A real holiday with salary is still a dream for the Chinese.
Another underdeveloped aspect of Chinese travel abroad is the behavior of some tourists. People believe that some tourist behavior affects the image of Chinese people abroad. Therefore, the Chinese government launched a program to popularize travel knowledge among Chinese tourists. In addition, this program was well-executed in many relevant agencies, such as airline companies and tourism agencies. Tourists can receive training before boarding, so that they felt better prepared during the trip and with a sense of responsibility.
In addition, current travel service is still not sufficient for many tourists. China now has many millionaires who seek a higher quality tourist experience and would like to receive personalized service. On the other hand, getting a travel visa is still a very complicated issue. China still cannot provide such a service.
To get a visa in a timely manner is a precondition for traveling abroad. Currently, only the Australian embassy gives a green light to some Visa-credit card holders in Beijing and Shanghai, when applying for a visa. "This is our way of attracting rich Chinese tourists. It is an attempt," one embassy officer explained. Managers in the China Tourism Agency and the Kanghui Tourism Agency said they hope European countries will also make such attempts, so that more tourists will be able to travel abroad and enjoy a great holiday in Europe. They also hope embassies can relax their visa policies when issuing a tourist visa for Chinese tourists.
By People's Daily Online