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Thailand wins lucrative slice of Chinese tourism market

Jan 15. 2016
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By The Nation

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Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan are the top five favourite destinations for travellers from the Chinese mainland, who numbered 109 million last year.

According to German market researcher GfK, by the beginning of November 2015, counting air and overnight visits, the number of Chinese travellers to Thailand had increased by 263 per cent since 2011. Japan experienced an increase of 157 per cent, South Korea by 112 per cent, and Taiwan 54 per cent.

Hong Kong, which was the preferred destination for mainland China’s outbound tourists until 2013, saw a 37-per-cent increase in the period, and now ranks No 3 behind Korea and Thailand.

“China’s outbound tourists remain strategic to Hong Kong and its businesses – but other destinations are jumping ahead in winning their favour,” said Laurens van den Oever, global head of travel and hospitality research at GfK.

“Destinations such as Hong Kong need to re-evaluate China’s new breed of young and independently minded travellers, to understand how best to attract them and capitalise on the growth of China’s outbound tourism.”

CLSA, a brokerage and investment group, maintains its forecast of 200 million Chinese outbound trips by 2020. It will release its third annual “Chinese Tourists” report next week.

According to GfK, since 2014, increasing numbers of China’s outbound tourists have been opting for destinations that offer historical and cultural experiences, as well as shopping.

The analyses showed that last year China produced 109 million outbound tourists who spent a total of US$229 billion (about Bt8.3 trillion).

These statistics consolidate China’s position as one of the top global sources of tourists, in terms of both number of trips and money spent during international travel.

At the same time, there have been profound changes in the behaviour of the typical Chinese traveller, with millennials – those aged 15-29 years – firmly established as the core drivers of China’s outbound tourism spending.

Europe remains the most popular destination for Chinese travelling outside Asia, showing an increase of 97 per cent in the number of air and overnight visits in the last four years. This is followed by North America (up 151 per cent) and the Middle East (up 177 per cent).

Africa remains the destination least visited by Chinese tourists, but there are signs this could be changing, as visits have risen by 306 per cent since 2011.

According to GfK data, half of China’s outbound travellers are millennials while 37 per cent are aged 30-44 and 10 per cent are 45-59.

An annual study from GfK shows that Chinese millennials are more ambitious than their predecessors, aged 50 and above – and more hedonistic in their willingness to spend money to indulge and pamper themselves. They are also slightly less price-sensitive, being the biggest purchasers of luxury goods in the Asia-Pacific region.

For destinations looking to attract this lucrative group, then, the ideal approach is to see them not as “tourists” but as independent travellers who will respond to opportunities to plan personalised trips.

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