Chinese outbound tourism goes up by 18%

Published on : Friday, November 22, 2013

unwtoThe spending by an individual on international tourism in China in 2012 amounted to just 75 US$, a tiny sum compared to 266 US$ for the USA and more than 1,000 US$ for Germany, Canada or Australia. Still China is topping the UNWTO tables with US$ 102 billion in total spending, reflecting the fact that only the top ten per cent of Chinese society are able to afford trips beyond the borders of Mainland China.

Recently published data for 2013 from the China Tourism Academy, the China National Tourism Administration think tank, put the number of outbound trips for the first three quarters of 2013 at 72.5 million, demonstrating a Year-on-Year increase of 18 per cent. In other words, more outbound border-crossings occurred from China in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2011.

The new Chinese government is not only not hindering this accumulation of wealth, but despite the ongoing campaign against conspicuous consumption, the outbound leisure tourism industry actually received public support on several occasions this year. In January the Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Shao Qiwei, declared that “Outbound tourism will boost China’s development in the long-term. The government, and particularly CNTA, will continue to promote the travelling of Chinese people abroad as we believe in the mutual benefits of collaboration.”

In April President Xi Jinping himself during the 2013 Annual Conference of the Boao Forum for Asia on Hainan Island said in his keynote speech that in the next five years China will probably have over 400 million tourists travelling abroad.

This was the first time ever a Chinese communist party leader spoke internationally in a positive and comprehensive way about outbound tourism. Since then, on several occasions Xi mentioned outbound travel, for instance during Xi’s visit to Samarkand/Uzbekistan in September, where he alluded to the shared history of travelling on the Silk Road. Outbound tourism, especially to neighboring and to less developed countries, has been increasingly used as a soft power tool even in the face of a tourism trade deficit which will for 2013 certainly reach a level of at least 70 billion US$.

This amount does not include foreign outbound direct investment, which has developed into a major incentive for many an international voyage undertaken by Chinese HNWIs. Investments overseas are seen as a good opportunity to snap up properties perceived in China as a bargain, but also as a means to get funds beyond the reach of the Chinese government. This buying spree covers a wide range of shopping items, from private islands in the Mediterranean to golf courses in Ireland and from town houses in the posh parts of London and Paris to villas, farms and business towers all over the world. Chinese nationals in the last twelve months have invested almost 10 billion US$ in the USA, putting them in second position as most important non- domestic investors in real estate after Canadian buyers. So the next Chinese outbound tourists entering your hotel might not come in to rent a room for the night, but to buy up the whole place.

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