GET­TING AROUND

China has be­come the world’s big­gest spender on travel

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

As Chi­nese tourists get richer, they’re shun­ning group tours and strik­ing out on their own, a lead­ing ho­tel book­ing web­site said in a study re­leased on Wed­nes­day. Texas-based Ho­tels.com said Chi­nese tourists’ over­seas ex­pen­di­ture jumped 40 per­cent last year to $102 bil­lion. That surge took China past the United States and Ger­many to be­come the world’s top out­bound tourism spender.

The web­site said it based its fig­ures on a re­port by the United Na­tions World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ho­tels.com han­dles book­ings for about 220,000 properties around the globe.

The web­site said that more than 60 per­cent of Chi­nese out­bound tourists pre­fer to travel in­di­vid­u­ally, rather than as part of a group.

A key find­ing of the 2013 re­port “is the way that Chi­nese travel, which is the trend of what we call FIT, free and in­de­pen­dent travel”, John Svanstrom, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ho­tels.com Asia-Pa­cific, told China Daily in Shang­hai.

The hote­liers in­ter­viewed con­firmed the trend, say­ing 70 per­cent of their Chi­nese guests are alone, com­pared with 50 per­cent in the pre­vi­ous sur­vey.

The sur­vey ques­tioned 3,000 Chi­nese men and women who went abroad at least once in 2012 and more than 1,500 hote­liers world­wide.

China’s out­bound tourists to­taled 83 mil­lion in 2012, mak­ing it the largest tourism source coun­try in the world, ac­cord­ing to the UN study.

The China Tourism Acad­emy has fore­cast that by 2020, Chi­nese peo­ple will make 200 mil­lion over­seas trips ev­ery year.

Ear­lier this year, the State Coun­cil is­sued the Out­line for National Tourism and Leisure (2013-20), which aims to boost out­bound tourism by en­cour­ag­ing com­pa­nies to im­prove the use of paid leave.

Nearly half of the hote­liers in­ter­viewed by the web­site ex­pect to see dou­ble- digit growth in the Chi­nese mar­ket in the next three years, while 10 per­cent be­lieve the growth rate will ex­ceed 50 per­cent.

While shop­ping con­tin­ues to take up a fairly large share of Chi­nese tourists’ ex­pen­di­ture, Svanstrom said spend­ing on meals, ho­tels and sight­see­ing is quickly catch­ing up.

“The Chi­nese mar­ket has more ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers, who have made enough trips to Hong Kong and Ma­cao and bought enough watches and bags. They now want to ex­pe­ri­ence the beaches, the tem­ples ... some ex­otic cul­ture and culi­nary things,” he said.

The Bei­jing- based lux­ury re­search cen­ter For­tune Char­ac­ter In­sti­tute has of­fered a sim­i­lar per­spec­tive. It es­ti­mated that lux­ury shop­ping now ac­counts for about 40 per­cent of over­seas ex­pen­di­ture by Chi­nese tourists, but it said that pro­por­tion will fall by half in the next five years.

That’s not be­cause the Chi­nese are spend­ing less on de­signer bags or scarves, but be­cause they’re pay­ing more vis­its to Miche­lin-starred restau­rants and jun­gle sa­faris, Zhou Ting, dean of the in­sti­tute, pointed out.

As a re­sult, there will be, if there isn’t al­ready, a dis­con­nect be­tween the needs of Chi­nese trav­el­ers and what’s of­fered by over­seas ho­tels.

Three-quar­ters of the sur­vey re­spon­dents said they are look­ing for­ward to see­ing Chi­nese-lan­guage fa­cil­i­ties and 42 per­cent want more Man­darin­speak­ing ho­tel staff.

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