A record number of Chinese consumers are expected to spend their Lunar New Year holidays travelling overseas this year. Shopping in Hong Kong, sunbathing on Phuket or enjoying the local food in Taipei are among the popular options.
"We have seen very strong demand this year," said Niu Yue, a spokesman at China's largest online travel agency Ctrip.com, adding that bookings for outbound trips have surged as much as 50 per cent compared to the Lunar New Year last year.
The strengthened economy, newly added air routes, more chartered flights during the Lunar New Year and a simplified visa application process to many countries have all helped boost the market this year, said Niu.
According to the company, around 60 per cent of its customers have chosen to take holidays abroad, mostly in warm cities and islands in Southeast Asia.
On top of their list is Hong Kong, where the number of visitors is far higher than in other popular places such as Phuket, Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, Cambodia and Malaysia, said the company, without disclosing specific numbers. Thailand is the fastest-growing market, with visitor numbers more than double those of last year, it said.
The China Tourism Academy said it expected a record 211 million people to travel during the Lunar New Year holidays, up 20 per cent year on year. The government-backed research unit said almost one in five residents showed an intention to travel overseas for the festival.
"Growth in the outbound market has outpaced that of the domestic market," said Niu. "More people prefer a foreign country to domestic tourist sites as they are attracted by the different experience, better services and exotic scenery."
China is set to become the world's largest tourism market. A study by global consulting company BCG said that outbound travel from China would get close to that from the United States by 2020, and Chinese travellers would contribute 14 per cent of world tourism revenue.