Chi­nese vis­i­tors spur Asia-Pa­cific tourism

With the mid­dle class hav­ing more money to spend, out­bound travel is driv­ing growth in the re­gion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - By KARL WIL­SON in Syd­ney karl­wil­son@chi­nadai­lya­

The young Chi­nese cou­ple had just parked their rented camper van in the main street of Sh­effield in the south­ern Aus­tralian state of Tas­ma­nia.

A cafe of­fered a warm, wel­come respite from the harsh wind out­side and a tem­per­a­ture of 5 C.

The cou­ple from Bei­jing had ear­lier flown to Launce­s­ton, in the north of the state, from Syd­ney — a jour­ney of about an hour and a half.

Af­ter col­lect­ing their bags, they set off across the state in the camper van, stay­ing for a day or two in places that took their fancy.

They rep­re­sent the new breed of Chi­nese tourist — avoid­ing or­ga­nized group tours and pre­fer­ring in­stead to do their own thing.

The Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has been the main ben­e­fi­ciary of the surge in the num­ber of Chi­nese trav­el­ing abroad, a re­sult of the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth in the past two decades.

From 2007 to last year, an­nual per capita GDP rose from $2,650 to $8,670, push­ing China into the ranks of the world’s up­per mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to global con­sul­tancy IHS Markit.

And with more money to spend, China’s rapidly grow­ing mid­dle class wants to travel.

Last year alone, Chi­nese ac­counted for 143 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional tourist trips, ac­cord­ing to the UN World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion. In 2000, the num­ber was just 10 mil­lion.

Chi­nese tourists’ es­ti­mated spend­ing on over­seas travel last year of $260 bil­lion makes the coun­try by far the world’s largest out­bound in­ter­na­tional tourism mar­ket, said IHS Markit Asia-Pa­cific econ­o­mist Ra­jiv Biswas.

China’s in­ter­na­tional tourism boom is hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic im­pact on the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, driv­ing rapid growth in the tourism economies of many coun­tries in­clud­ing Thai­land and Ja­pan, Biswas said.

Leon Per­era, CEO of re­gional com­pany Spire Re­search and Con­sult­ing, said, “Chi­nese out­bound tourism, like its Ja­pa­nese coun­ter­part a gen­er­a­tion ago, has had a trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect on South­east Asia’s tourism in­dus­try.

“The in­flow has sparked in­vest­ment in ca­pac­ity-build­ing among the re­gion’s tourist lo­ca­tions,” Per­era said. “Go­ing for­ward, the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists can be ex­pected to mod­er­ate as eco­nomic growth slows.”

Per­era said Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing South­east Asia tend to spend less per capita than their West­ern coun­ter­parts, but spend­ing power is dis­parate, call­ing for dif­fer­ent strate­gies for the mass mar­ket and pre­mium sec­tors.

“At the same time, South­east Asia’s tourism in­dus­try has to mod­er­ate the pos­si­bil­ity of overde­pen­dence on tourists from any one source coun­try,” he said.

Biswas, from IHS, said Chi­nese tourism in Thai­land has gained con­sid­er­able mo­men­tum fol­low­ing the re­lease of the 2012 Chi­nese com­edy movie Lost in Thai­land.

In 2011, about 1.7 mil­lion Chi­nese vis­ited Thai­land, com­pared with 9.8 mil­lion last year, which rep­re­sented 27.7 per­cent of all in­ter­na­tional tourism ar­rivals to the coun­try.

With spend­ing by in­ter­na­tional tourists in Thai­land reach­ing an es­ti­mated $56 bil­lion last year, “tourism has be­come a key seg­ment of the over­all Thai econ­omy”, Biswas said.

“Given to­tal Thai gross do­mes­tic prod­uct in 2017 was $455 bil­lion, this high­lights the im­por­tant role of in­ter­na­tional tourism in the over­all econ­omy,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Biswas, the con­tri­bu­tion of Chi­nese tourism to Thai­land last year was es­ti­mated at $16 bil­lion.

Bali top spot gained

Sta­tis­tics from the Bali Tourism Pro­mo­tion Board show that Aus­tralia is no longer the top source for tourists to the In­done­sian va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion. China, for the first time, has taken the No 1 spot.

Last year, 1.09 mil­lion Aus­tralians vis­ited Bali, down from 1.14 mil­lion in 2016. In the same pe­riod, the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors rose from 987,000 to 1.39 mil­lion.

Some 3.8 mil­lion tourists from China vis­ited Viet­nam in the first nine months of this year, a year-on-year rise of 29.7 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Viet­nam Na­tional Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tourism. In the same pe­riod, more than 11.6 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals were recorded in Viet­nam, of which 32.8 per­cent were Chi­nese.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said 16 to 17 mil­lion for­eign vis­i­tors are ex­pected to visit Viet­nam this year, ac­count­ing for tourism rev­enue worth $27.5 bil­lion.

An­drew Herd­man, di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Asia Pa­cific Air­lines, said, “Air travel is now part of every­day mod­ern life for bil­lions of peo­ple world­wide.

“Within the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, avi­a­tion has had a trans­for­ma­tive in­flu­ence on so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, serv­ing rapidly grow­ing num­bers of mid­dle-class con­sumers.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Air Trans­port Ac­tion Group in Geneva, Switzer­land, on Oct 2, Asia-Pa­cific is ben­e­fit­ing from air con­nec­tions, as more than 1.5 bil­lion pas­sen­gers travel in the re­gion, sup­port­ing 30.2 mil­lion jobs in avi­a­tion and re­lated in­dus­tries, and 2.7 per­cent of the re­gion’s eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

In a state­ment, Michael Gill, the group’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said, “Let’s take a step back and think about how ad­vances in air trans­port have changed the way peo­ple and busi­nesses con­nect with each other — the reach we have to­day is ex­traor­di­nary.”

He said Asia-Pa­cific has seen real ben­e­fits in em­brac­ing the role of air travel.

“To­day, the re­gion is the busiest in the world, with over a third of global pas­sen­ger traf­fic from Asia-Pa­cific. Pas­sen­gers in the re­gion have taken ad­van­tage of the re­duc­tion in the price of tick­ets in re­cent decades, which en­ables more peo­ple to travel, see the world and do busi­ness out­side of their own coun­try.

“By 2036, avi­a­tion in the re­gion is ex­pected to sup­port 44 mil­lion jobs and $1.7 tril­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity,” Gill said.

He said key to this growth will be the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of air trans­porta­tion as part of na­tional growth plans. This will in­clude “im­prove­ments in in­fra­struc­ture, sup­port for sus­tain­able avi­a­tion fu­els, and help­ing to en­cour­age more young women and men to think of ca­reers in avi­a­tion”.

An­other coun­try that has seen enor­mous growth in Chi­nese tourism is Ja­pan. Be­fore 2012, its in­ter­na­tional tourism econ­omy was rel­a­tively small when mea­sured as a share of GDP.

Biswas said, “Rapid growth in Chi­nese tourist vis­its helped push to­tal in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor num­bers up from 6.8 mil­lion in 2009 to 28.7 mil­lion in 2017.”

He added that the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing Ja­pan last year rose to 7.36 mil­lion, up from 1 mil­lion in 2009.

Rapid growth in Chi­nese tourist vis­its helped push to­tal in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor num­bers (in Ja­pan) up from 6.8 mil­lion in 2009 to 28.7 mil­lion in 2017.”

Ra­jiv Biswas, IHS Markit Asia-Pa­cific econ­o­mist

Growth driver

Chi­nese tourism to Ja­pan last year rose by 15 per­cent year-on-year, ac­count­ing for 25.6 per­cent of in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals, while over­seas vis­i­tor spend­ing in the coun­try reached $40 bil­lion, with Chi­nese con­tribut­ing about onethird of this, Biswas said.

Chi­nese tourism has also had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the South Korean econ­omy, ac­count­ing for 46.8 per­cent of in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors in 2016.

In Aus­tralia, Chi­nese have be­come a key growth driver for the tourism sec­tor, with 1.3 mil­lion ar­riv­ing last year and spend­ing $8.2 bil­lion, up by 14 per­cent year-on-year.

“With Chi­nese an­nual per capita GDP fore­cast to con­tinue ris­ing sig­nif­i­cantly over the next decade, from an es­ti­mated $9,700 in 2018 to $22,000 by 2028, the Chi­nese tourism boom in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion looks set to con­tinue over the long term,” Biswas said.

The Pa­cific Asia Travel As­so­ci­a­tion has fore­cast that Chi­nese tourists will form 40 per­cent of the Asia-Pa­cific mar­ket and will re­main the key driver of Asian tourism growth in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Paul Yong, an an­a­lyst with DBS Bank in Sin­ga­pore, said re­cently that the num­ber of out­bound Chi­nese tourists rose from 98.2 mil­lion in 2013 to 130.5 mil­lion last year to be­come the world’s largest out­bound mar­ket source.

“Yet less than one in 10 Chi­nese cit­i­zens has a pass­port,” he said. “Imag­ine the sheer po­ten­tial for growth as pass­port pen­e­tra­tion catches up with Ja­pan (23 per­cent), the United States (41 per­cent) and Aus­tralia, where 56 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion have pass­ports.”


Clock­wise from top: Chi­nese tourists climb the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge in Aus­tralia; Sin­gar­pore is an­other pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for tourists from the coun­try; vis­i­tors en­joy the Sangum­buri Crater on Jeju Is­land, South Korea.

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