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Chinese tourists are traveling again – but not in the way they used to

WorldEuropeChinese tourists are traveling again – but not in the way they used to
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Chinese tourists are eager to travel again.

But this time, the usual suspects – Venice, Paris and Madrid, for example – are not their top picks.

As China reopens after three years of Covid-19 restrictions, the country’s travel-hungry citizens are changing drastically, according to the Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute, an independent consulting company based in Germany.

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“The Chinese tourists we will welcome this year and in the years to come are very different from those that came before,” COTRI founder and CEO Wolfgang Georg Arlt said at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair.

Elsewhere in China, years of pandemic-induced lockdowns led to a shift away from major tourist attractions toward “more nature-oriented, more outdoor-oriented tourism,” Arlt said. He highlighted trends such as camping and glamping, as well as family-focused travel.

Perhaps more importantly, many Chinese vacationers are still discovering a wealth of travel opportunities in their home country, he said.

It used to be that if you were an important person in China, you had to travel internationally.

Wolfgang Georg Arlt

Founder and CEO of China Outbound Tourism Research Institute

Arlt said, “In the three years the country was under lockdown, everyone had to travel domestically – including wealthy people – which boosted the domestic tourism industry.”

This could mark a significant shift in the international travel market, of which Chinese tourists are a major contributor.

“It used to be that if you were an important person in China, you had to travel internationally. If you were traveling domestically, you were either too poor or too poor to travel internationally. Too stupid for that,” Arlt said.

He said, ‘It has changed now.

Plus “the quality and diversity of domestic travel offerings has improved. So, for us, we not only have to compete with other international destinations, we have to compete with the domestic market as well,” said Arlt, who runs Meaningful Tourism. He is also the director of the Center, a permanent travel consultancy based in Hamburg.

gradual resumption of travel

Chinese tourists almost made 170 million Outbound trips in 2019, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

In the first half of that year alone, their foreign travel spending exceeded $127.5 billion, one discovery Found from Chinese travel booking site Ctrip.com.

According to COTRI, this year, Chinese outbound travel is forecast to recover about two-thirds of its 2019 high, with nearly 110 million border crossings from China.

However, hotel group Accor estimates that three out of four Chinese travelers will stay within the country.

Accor’s Global Chief Commercial Officer, Karelle Lamouche, told CNBC Travel, “We anticipate that 70% to 80% of travelers will still be within China. Flight capacity is not yet at 2019 levels.”

Since the country reopened its borders in early January, a lack of flight capacity has left many prospective travelers stuck at home. In the week from February 6 to February 12, international flights out of China recovered to only 9% of 2019 levels, according to data from Alibaba-owned travel booking site Fliggy, with 63% of those flights operated by Chinese carriers. were done.

Meanwhile, many Chinese citizens have been troubled by delays in passport renewals and visa applications, as well as some short-term travel restrictions from countries such as Japan and South Korea.

“Until we don’t have a passport, until we don’t have a visa,” we can’t prepare for China, said Ralf Ostendorf, director of market management at the tourist destination travel berlin,

Chinese outbound travel is projected to reach about two-thirds of its pre-pandemic level in 2023.

Leopatrizzi | E+ | Getty Images

Because of those constraints, countries that can accommodate the transfer needs of Chinese travelers have emerged as clear winners. For example, Thailand offers visa on arrival to fully vaccinated Chinese tourists who have travel insurance.

“Thailand has become the top destination for Chinese customers,” said Shimon Shi, chief strategy officer and head of corporate development at Fligee, noting that Thailand welcomed 180,000 Chinese tourists from January to mid-February.

The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said last month that he hoped 15 million Chinese tourists will visit the country this year – nearly half of all arrivals.

Tour Groups and Tailored Trips

Still, other travelers’ preferences may be more obvious. Prior to the pandemic, the majority (55%) of Chinese tourists opted to book their overseas travel through group tour operators, even though acceptance of independent travel has increased.

This trend is unlikely to go away Soon, Shi said — albeit with little change in the types of services they’re looking for.

When they choose to go abroad, I think group travel will still be their first choice.

Shimon Shi

Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Corporate Development at Fliggy

“Even nowadays, most Chinese people do not have passports,” he said. As the travel market evolves, he said he expects “group tours will still be their first choice,” Xi said.

However, due to the pandemic, many tour operators have closed or reduced capacity, creating opportunities for new entrants to emerge with bespoke services, he said.

Young Chinese tourists, for example, may prefer to visit local cafes seen on social media rather than major attractions, he said.

Arlt agreed that niche products and special-interest tours, including those that differentiate between first-time and repeat visitors, could be ways for businesses to entice “new” Chinese tourists. Can

“Understand what you have to offer, which segment of the Chinese market is right for that, and then offer it,” Arlt said.

“Don’t be afraid of niche markets in China,” he said. “The niche market in China is millions of people.”

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