BEIJING: In the first year of the new millennium, a modest 10.5 million overseas trips were made by Chinese residents. Fast forward to 2018 and the figure was 149.7 million – an astounding increase of 1326 per cent.
In less than two decades China has grown from travel minnows to the world’s most powerful outbound market, leaving for behind the US. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Chinese tourists overseas spent $US277.3 billion in 2018, up from around $US10 billion in the year 2000. Collectively, America’s globetrotters parted with a relatively paltry $US144.2 billion.
Whereas nine per cent of Chinese citizens or 120 million people possess a passport, compared to about 57 per cent of Australians, 40 per cent of Americans, and 76 per cent of Britons.
Clearly the potential for further growth, China’s population is 1.42 billion is staggering. The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) predicts that overseas trips by the country’s residents will increase from last year’s figure of 149.7 million to more than 400 million by 2030.
“That means that out of the 600 million additional trips in international tourism forecasted by UNWTO, bringing the total from 1.2 billion in 2017 to 1.8 billion by 2030, almost half of them will originate in China,” it says. The country will account for a quarter of international tourism.
International tourism expenditure by country
Total spending by tourists in 2018
China $US277.3 billion
US $US144.2 billion
Germany $US94.2 billion
UK $US75.8 billion
France $US47.9 billion
Australia $US36.8 billion
Canada $US33.3 billion
South Korea $US32 billion
Italy $US30.1 billion
No wonder tourist boards are falling over themselves to woo the country’s expanding army of middle-class travellers. VisitBritain’s GREAT China Welcome campaign, for example, was launched in 2014. Hotels, tour operators and attractions are being urged to make themselves “China-ready” by providing information in Mandarin or Cantonese and adapting their products for the Chinese market and culture.
Thailand is the most popular destination for Chinese tourists beyond Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
The figure of 149.7 million foreign trips is slightly misleading. That’s because it includes journeys made to China’s special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Taiwan, which is also considered by Chinese as part of “Greater China”. These three accounted for around 70 million “overseas” journeys made in 2018.