Trends to look out for as Chinese tourism booms
Rachel Mao, Amistad Partners’ VP of sales for China, looks at the boom in Chinese tourism and the trends for 2018 and beyond.
Tourism in China is showing strong growth and is becoming a powerful contributor to the country’s economy. The country expects to receive more than 140 million inbound visits in 2018, higher than the number of inbound tourists in 2017 and 2016.
Independent hotels in China, and their sales and marketing teams in particular, should consider how their hotels can be positioned to attract the interest of inbound travellers.
Top trends in China
1) Interest in China is on the up – China Daily reported that China’s domestic tourism industry earned $720 billion) with five billion domestic trips made in 2017, according to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).
The industry accounted for 11 per cent of economic output. Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, said in an interview in May 2018 that he is optimistic about tourism to China. “The growth－the increase of 0.8 and 3.6 per cent－may not be that significant compared with the growth of the outbound tourism market,” Dai said, “but it’s the third consecutive year of positive growth since we were hit by the Asian financial crisis, SARS and the global financial turbulence.”
2) Inter-regional travel – This is a trend we have discussed before; it’s worth discussing here again for the simple reason that inbound tourism to China is fuelled by regional visitors. CNTA data shows that 17 countries, including Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and South Korea, are the main sources of visitors with nearly 43 million people paying visits to China in 2017.
Visitors from Asian countries make up the greatest share of inbound visits, about three out of four visits. With several cities in China offering visa-free transit for 72 hours or more, it’s no surprise that over half of visitors to China spend one to three days in the country.
This allows international business travellers to add a few days on to their trip to take in some key tourist sights. It also gives regional tourists the chance to get away for a quick, short break.
3) Improvements to infrastructure – Those in China are aware that some substandard domestic travel services are hampering the country’s ability to encourage tourism. Li Chuangxin, a research at the China Tourism Academy, commented in the same interview as Dai that China plans to build the country into a tourism power in the next 15 years.
“Transportation systems, including airlines and high-speed railways, are also important,” he said. “It’s also necessary to simplify visa application procedures to lure more tourists from foreign countries.”
The country’s high-speed railway is already the longest in the world and there are no signs of slowing down. The high inter-regional demand is also resulting in increased competition by airlines to add more flights to current routes and to expand the routes.
4) Cultural experiences and off-the-track locations – In his May 2018 interview, Dai Bin also said that more culture-related tour packages co-developed by travel agencies and high-tech companies will be available at domestic travel destinations to help improve tourists’ travel experiences and boost the development of inbound tourism.
Travellers are looking for unique experiences and something different from the usual tour, and the Chinese government is urging the industry to take action. China Daily reported that rural tourism has been stressed as a crucial part of China’s strategies of rural vitalization.
The sector is helping eliminate poverty and increase people’s wealth, as official data showed that 2.5 billion trips were made in rural China in 2017, and its tourism consumption topped 1.4 trillion yuan.
Chinese tourism is a boon, not just for the visitors who get to explore a fairly untapped market, but also for Chinese nationals that are benefiting from tourism-led economic improvement. As experts on the China travel and leisure market, we’re always happy to speak to independent hotels based in China on what they can do to drive their business goals.
• Amistad Partners is a global team of experienced and committed professionals, delivering Sales, Marketing & Business solutions to some of the world’s leading independent hotel groups.