Number of outbound tourists soaring

08:58, March 29, 2010      

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China Tourism Academy estimates as many as 54 million tourists will go abroad this year, up from 47 million in 2009, reports Yu Tianyu from Beijing.

Zhu Mingxia, a 66-year-old Beijing resident, proudly shows off her passport with tourist visas for 13 countries.

She is busy planning another trip soon with her 67-year-old husband but is torn between Melbourne and London.

"My grandson is studying economics in Melbourne. We miss him so much and want to see him," Zhu said. "But, I also would love to visit the British Museum because I read an interesting article about it in middle school more than 50 years ago."

Zhu, a former college professor, and her husband traveled to 13 foreign countries, including South Africa and Burma, within five years of their retirement.

"We have become experienced travelers and never joined any tour groups because we wish to freely plan our routes, activities and accommodation and at the same time get to know local people and their culture," she said.

Ahead of their trips, Zhu and her husband always do a lot of homework on local traditions, must-go places and the general culture. Zhu said that she booked hotels and regional train tickets online and read many pieces written by other travelers.

She said: "Although we only speak a few words of English, it is still not a big problem because many overseas countries have started to provide services in Chinese and there are also many helpful people who are able to speak fluent Chinese."

Zhu is just one of many Chinese travel enthusiasts who decided to explore the world as the Chinese economy boomed and overseas travel became less of a luxury limited to the privileged few.

The Annual Report of China Outbound Tourism Development 2009-2010, recently released by the China Tourism Academy (CTA), estimated that 54 million travelers would go abroad this year, up from 47 million in 2009.

Jiang Yiyi, director of the academy's international tourism development institute, said that the outbound travel market for the Chinese mainland would remain brisk this year, continuing to contribute to the recovery of the world economy and helping to offset China's trade surplus.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China will be the world's fourth-largest source of outbound tourists by 2020, with 100 million overseas visits.

Spotting the huge market potential, many countries have striven to lure more free-spending Chinese tourists, especially amid the global economic recovery.

Gregory Hywood, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, Australia, told China Business Weekly in an exclusive interview that 163,000 Chinese tourists visited Victoria in 2009, accounting for a half of the total Chinese tourists who traveled to Australia. He added the total length of stay soared by 48.2 percent year-on-year to 6.3 million nights.

Hywood said his organization had worked out a 10-year plan for the Chinese market and it also expects a 70 percent increase in the number of tourists to Victoria this year, with Chinese visitors accounting for 70 percent of the rise.

"With an investment of A$1.4 billion ($951.6 million), the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center has received many groups of Chinese visitors in recent years," he said. "We will put great efforts into the meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) business because more Chinese enterprises have started putting emphasis on rewarding and encouraging their staff."

Additionally, events and activities, including the Australian Open, F1 Championship and Melbourne Film Festival, will attract many Chinese tourists, especially young people, he said.

The India tourism industry has launched its 'Incredible India' campaign with dances and cultural events all over China projecting southern Asian nation as a top travel destination in an effort to woo Chinese tourists.

Shoeb Samad, director of India Tourism in Beijing has said that the number of Chinese tourists arriving in India increased from 21,152 in 2003 to 98,724 in 2008. He said India was a natural destination for Chinese travelers looking for a spiritually gratifying experience.

Sri Lanka is also looking towards China to boost its sinking tourism industry. Hit by the financial crisis, Sri Lanka received only 9,000 Chinese tourists in 2009, but the number is steadily rising.

The Sri Lankan Tourism Bureau set up an office in Beijing in 2008, while Sri Lankan Airlines also offered a number of tour packages to the Chinese market. There are three direct flights from Beijing to the capital, Colombo, every week with Chinese attendants on board.

Many emerging travel destinations are opening up their arms to welcome Chinese tourists.

The first Chinese tour group of 200 tourists is due to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on April 12, said a statement from the National Tourism Administration of China. Chinese tourists have been able to travel to Lebanon since March 1.

A report by AC Nielson showed that Asian countries were the top choice for Chinese tourists with more than 60 percent of respondents favoring the destination. The region's popularity was followed by Europe and Oceania.

According to statistics from travel search engine, top destinations for travelers departing from Beijing were Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok, New York, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, London and Sydney.

Ma Nan, marketing manager of Beijing UTS International Travel Service Co Ltd, said his company was expecting a 20 percent rise this year in tourists visiting South Africa, Egypt, Japan, the US and island countries in Southeast Asia, despite a possible 5 percent year-on-year rise in prices.

Ma also said that Chinese tourists have gradually got more sophisticated. Far fewer now travel long journeys by bus, snap a photograph at an attraction then leave straight away.

Chinese tourists' preferences mostly depends on age, she said. Travelers aged from 20 to 35 would like to go Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia and those 35 and above prefer to visit Europe, Australia and the United States. Older tourists often chose South Africa and Egypt.

More and more Chinese prefer to visit one or two countries during an overseas trip and they have raised their requirements on accommodation and flights, Ma added.

Ding Ding, public relations manager of Hua Yuan International Travels Company Ltd, said that most Chinese tourists would like tour groups of less than 30 people, direct flights and four-star hotels or above.

According to online figures from Chinese hotel and destination review website, about 34 percent of Chinese travelers choose budget hotels, 26 percent prefer four-star hotels and 16 percent of them choose five-star hotels.

More than 61 percent of Chinese tourists conducted online research ahead of their trips and about 48 percent of travelers would make adjustments to their trip based on information they received from online travel bulletins, an AC Nielson report showed.

Industry insiders recommend tourism businesses and travel agencies to maintain online communication with their Chinese customers as much as they can.

Speaking as a former journalist, Gregory Hywood of Tourism Victoria said tourism and journalism were similar industries in that they are both about marketing and people. "Firstly, you'd better learn more about the demands of Chinese tourists. And, you need to work hard on how to promote what they are able to get from your place and also consider seriously how to provide better services to them when they arrive," he said.

Dai Bin, deputy head of the China Tourism Academy, said countries should provide more services and facilities in Chinese in order to enhance satisfaction rates.

Talking about shopping - perhaps the most important activity when Chinese people travel abroad - Hywood said a flourishing number of both emerging and established designers in Melbourne were showing off their products.

"Flinders Lane in Melbourne in particular has become a beacon for fashionistas, with everything from high-end labels to vintage pieces to be found," said Luee Sun, a London-based buyer who purchases fashion items for department stores.

Sun said also Oxford Circus in London and Fifth Avenue in New York were both driving Chinese "shopaholics" crazy.

The Galleries Lafayette in Paris reported that a typical Chinese tourist spent 1,000 euros in two hours last year, topping tourists from other countries.

The Annual Report of China Outbound Tourism Development 2009-2010 said Chinese tourists are expected to spend $6.86 billion overseas in 2010, which is up by 14 per cent from a year earlier.

Ding of Hua Yuan said her company arranges shopping-themed tour groups in both discount seasons of July to August and December to February.

Also, cards from China UnionPay, the Chinese bankcard association, are accepted in 90 countries and regions outside China and they have ATM machines in more than 50 countries and regions.

Zhang Chi, a 26-year-old self-confessed "shopaholic", travels abroad at least twice a year, saying that she always buys cosmetics and skincare products for the whole year since they are relatively cheaper and there is greater choice available abroad.

Source: China Daily
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