Spending by overseas Chinese tourists is forecast to rise again in 2017, in line with a trend of double-digit growth in tourism expenditure every year since 2004.
However, according to an annual report compiled by accommodation booking website Hotels.com and market research firm Ipsos, spending of Chinese tourists will no longer revolve around the traditional retail shopping. Instead, the increasingly more sophisticated mainland consumer is opting to spend their money on dining, culture and entertainment experiences.
“For the first time in the survey’s history, shopping is no longer the prime reason for international travel,” noted the authors of the Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) 2017 report. “Leisure, culture and eco-tourism are the new flavors.”
Surveying some 3,000 Chinese residents who had traveled overseas in the past 12 months, the May 2017 report found that overseas visitors were spending on average around 8 percent more per day than in the previous 12-month period. The average amount spent per day rose from USD414 (about MOP3,300) to USD446 in 2017.
“Chinese travelers are spending a higher share of their income on international travel and intend to spend even more in the next year despite a slowing down of the Chinese economy,” the CITM report reads. “On average, Chinese travelers spent USD3,623 [nearly MOP30,000] in the last 12 months – more than a quarter of their income, and up from 24 percent compared to the previous year.”
While the spending of overseas Chinese tourists is expected to increase in line with the past 13 years, the proportion of survey respondents indicating a preference for retail shopping sharply declined this year.
Just one-third of those surveyed said that they had an interest in retail shopping during their overseas travel, less than half of the 68 percent recorded in the previous 12-month period.
Instead, half of the survey respondents said that they intend to spend more on dining and entertainment, with an additional interest in eco-tours and the natural environment also making an appearance on the agendas of overseas visitors.
“Shopping no longer holds the attraction it once held for Chinese travelers; leisure is the key motivation,” wrote Abhiram Chowdhry, Asia-Pacific vice-president for Hotels.com in the report’s foreword. “As air pollution problems in China continue to escalate, air quality and pristine natural environments are [becoming] important factors in destination choice.”
According to the China National Tourism Administration, some 30 percent of Chinese outbound visitors opted for island destinations or eco tours in 2016. Most of these destinations continue to be located in the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, 82 percent of the survey respondents – all of whom had traveled abroad in the previous 12 months – said that they had visited destinations in the Asia-Pacific region.
This figure however is on the decline as mainstream Chinese tourists find the confidence and funds to go further afield. Some 35 percent said that they had visited the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region in the past 12 months, while 19 percent had visited the U.S., up by 25 percent and 11 percent year-on- year respectively.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a subsidiary agency of the United Nations, calculates that outbound Chinese tourists spent on aggregate 12 percent more in 2016 than in the previous year, rising to USD261 billion (MOP2.1 trillion). This has consolidated China’s position as world leader when it comes to overseas spending, followed by the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and France.
At the same time, the number of Chinese outbound travelers rose by 6 percent in 2016 to a total of 135 million, the UN agency claims.
This runs contrary to the data published in the CITM report, which holds that the number of outbound Chinese tourists last year was considerably lower, at 122 million. Moreover, it calculates that this number had grown by just 4.3 percent compared with the previous year.
It is not clear whether the tourism authorities regard residents of the greater China area – namely Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau – as Chinese travelers, nor whether they consider these territories to constitute “overseas.”