China: The next superpower of outbound tourism?
Much has been written about China’s increasing
importance on the world stage, and the evidence of
growing economic prosperity has led tourism operators
to anticipate a big upsurge in outbound Chinese tourists
over the coming years. Is this view well-founded, and are
the early signs encouraging? Nancy Cockerell,
LDR’s Travel Market Commentator, investigates.
China’s outbound travel market has been their recently accorded approved destination Over the past five years, China’s economy
growing by 22% a year since 2000 in terms status (ADS) from the Chinese authorities. has already grown by leaps and bounds,
of trip volume, so it is little wonder that (ADS allows a destination to receive Chinese with GDP growth averaging around 10.5%
national tourism organisations (NTOs) and leisure tour groups.) in 2006 and GDP per capita rising by 17%
destination suppliers around the world are The main reason behind the high to US$2,020. By the end of this decade, per
basing so many of their hopes for tourism expectations is an economic one. Over the capita income is expected to reach US$2,800
development over the next decade on China. next 50 years China – dubbed one of the – not a bad performance when one considers
Admittedly, their expectations appear to be BRIC economies alongside Brazil, Russia and that it was little more than US$1,000 only
somewhat unrealistic and there have already India by Goldman Sachs, the authors of the four years ago. With such a powerful
been disappointments. In both 2005 and October 2003 report ‘Dreaming with BRICS’ economic engine driving China, it is not
2006, for example, China’s annual growth – is expected to be a major force in the global surprising that 300 million Chinese have been
was well below target for all but a few economy. In terms of GDP, in US dollar terms, lifted out of absolute poverty in the last 30
European destinations, which were all hyped China could overtake Germany as soon as years. And they are all eager to travel.
up about the market’s potential following 2007 or 2008, the report said.
Changing lifestyles and shifting demographics
China’s fast-growing economy and huge domestic market are clearly key factors contributing
to the projected future growth in domestic and international tourism demand. But it is also
being driven by huge demographic shifts and changing lifestyles.
In 1994, as Graph 1 shows, the Chinese population was young – 56% of Chinese were
29 years old or younger. But the Chinese Government’s ‘one child per family’ ruling has had
80 % a significant impact on the ageing of the population. The highest growth segment of the last
decade was the ‘householder’ – the 30-59-year age group. And the main growth segment of
35 the next ten years will be the more mature householder – the 40-69-year age group. All other
age groups will decline in size and their segment value will therefore not increase in real terms
P O P U L AT I O N
60 % 48
30-59 Working-age ‘empty-nesters’…
The age/lifecycle segment offering the greatest travel growth potential over the next 20 years
56 are the working-age ‘empty-nesters’, those whose children are probably more than 20 years old
44 and are economically independent. According to statistics published by Asian Demographics,
35 they already have most of the home ‘durables’ they need, are experiencing rapidly increasing
discretionary funds, and are the first wave of educated adults in China.
Significantly for travel and tourism, the Chinese mature householder is developing new
<30 interests and is now often looking for experiences rather than things.
…and the ‘no-child household’
Graph 1: Chinese demographics by age Furthermore, in China we are seeing the emergence of the no-child household (by choice),
Sources: International Monetary Fund;
as opposed to the one-child household under existing government policy. This means that
The Economist Intelligence Unit
a new generation of urban Chinese on the country’s eastern coast will have more time and
money to focus on the 4Cs of career, condominium, car and club membership – all elements
of status. Marketing to this constituency will require some serious re-engineering of existing
Asia’s leading travel source
China overtook Japan as Asia’s leading outbound travel source in 2002 and has continued to gain
share ever since, with preliminary estimates pointing to 34.5 million citizen departures in 2006,
up 11%. This compares with 10.5 million in 2000, 4.5 million in 1995 and just 620,000 in 1990.
Nevertheless, care must be taken in interpreting the statistics since some 70% of total
trips are for Hong Kong and Macau, Special Administrative Regions of China – so not really
10000 international destinations at all. And this is in addition to 1.2 billion domestic trips. So this
means that China made less than 10.5 million trips to destinations outside Greater China.
% annual change
Nevertheless, the absolute number and share are growing fast, even if Europe has yet to
Southeast Asia attracts the bulk of demand for destinations outside Greater China, although
the top five destinations – Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Russia and the US – include two
outside the region. It should, of course, be noted that, with the exception of Thailand, a
Graph 2: Chinese travel expenditure significant share of trips to these destinations are for business, official or study travel.
Sources: CNTA; World Tourism Organization And the main flows into Russia are land-border crossings into Russia’s Far East.
The most attractive destination at the present time,
in terms of major growth potential, is Hainan Island.
The Americas overall officially attract a Increasing demand for resorts The ‘Oriental Hawaii’
modest 2.6% of trips but, since departures
Ten years ago, the few Chinese who did travel Hainan, known as the ‘Oriental Hawaii’, is
count only the first destination/port of
abroad primarily visited cities, or went touring. the largest ocean island and the smallest
call visited, and Chinese often stop over in
Almost no Chinese would have ventured land province in China. Located in the south
Europe en route to the Americas, the share is
into the sun for fear of losing their cherished of China and blessed with a magnificent
probably higher. With the same caveat, Europe
pale complexions. Yet, especially among the natural environment, it occupies an area of
generates less than a 7% share overall.
younger Chinese, sun and beach holidays are 35,000 square kilometres, offering tourists
now extremely popular (as are suntans) hence a particularly mild climate. Sanya, the most
Chinese are big spenders popular destination on the island, is famous for
the huge growth in demand for destinations
Chinese ADS groups are widely considered to such as the Maldives and Thailand. its tropical beaches, but the island also offers
be ‘cheapskate’ since inbound tour operators Other resort destinations around Asia a number of cultural attractions, including
usually have to work with a budget of less Pacific have also been attracting more and temples and tombs from the Ming Dynasty.
than US$70 a day, according to the European more Chinese tourists, something that is While numbers of international travellers
Tour Operators’ Association, to cover increasingly attracting the attention of hotel to Hainan are still relatively modest, a
accommodation, food and beverages and developers and investors. And where better growing share of European tour operators,
sightseeing – a main reason why tour guides to start developing new resort properties to including TUI/Thomson and Kuoni Travel, are
try to make commissions on shopping tours. attract the Chinese holidaymaker than in now marketing the destination. Russians
But the good news for the tourism industry China itself? were among the first international visitors
around the world is that the newly emerging ‘We have a strong interest in building thanks to an agreement between the Russian
independent Chinese leisure traveller is resorts in China,’ says Brian Deeson, Senior and Chinese governments that gave Russians
looking for higher quality and is increasingly Vice President of Accor’s Asia Pacific & two-week visa-free access to the island.
prepared to pay for it. Greater China division. ‘As the domestic In addition to Accor, several international
International travel expenditure by Chinese market goes from strength to strength, there brands are already present in the market,
totalled around US$25 billion last year, up is a growing demand for resort experiences.’ including Marriott, Sheraton, Hilton and
15%, or a relatively modest US$725 per Holiday Inn. Kempinski was the first of several
In 2006 Accor opened the Sofitel
capita. But if travel to Hong Kong and Macau new five-star resort properties scheduled to
Zhongshan Resort in Nanjing, which boasts
is excluded from the count, the average open in 2007. And Ho Kwon Ping, Executive
a Gary Player-designed Championship Golf
spend is over US$1,700 – second only to Chairman of premium resort group, Banyan
Course, and more similar developments are
the Japanese. Tree, is developing a 114-room resort on
planned by the group for the future.
Increased interest among Chinese tourists Hainan Island, also scheduled to open this
‘But the most attractive destination year, as well as looking for opportunities in
for luxury travel destinations, as well as at the present time, in terms of market other parts of China. While most expect a
luxury branded goods, is the reason behind growth potential, is Hainan Island,’ says steady increase in international demand as
the launch of the Asia Luxury Travel Market Deeson. ‘Yalong Bay has developed into an awareness of the destination grows, the main
(ALTM) in Shanghai this coming June. important holiday destination and we have interest is in the Chinese market’s potential.
The first ever event in Asia Pacific aimed a Grand Mercure resort being built there, as
exclusively at the luxury end of the travel Even if only a modest share of China’s
well as looking at a project in Sanya itself.
industry, ALTM is the sister event to the 1.2 billion domestic travellers are interested
The meetings, incentives, conferences and
successful International Luxury Travel Market in holiday resorts, it is clearly a market worth
exhibitions (MICE) market is also becoming
in Cannes, and will showcase the world’s pursuing.
more important for Hainan, and we manage
most exclusive hotels, resorts and operators the Sofitel Boao, which has the largest
of luxurious travel experiences, and provide a meeting space on the island, as well as Nancy Cockerell is LDR’s
forum for buyers and sellers from inside and extensive resort facilities including two Travel Market Commentator
outside the region to meet and do business. golf courses.’