Chinese tourists

Mainland Chinese tourists power global travel boom

Cross-border trips by mainlanders are expected to rise by nearly 20pc this year, the biggest driver in global tourism

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 11:32am

Mainland tourists made an estimated 82 million border-crossing visits this year, becoming the biggest driver of growth in international tourism.

Dai Bin, president of the National Tourism Administration's China Tourism Academy, said outbound trips by mainland tourists were expected to grow by 16.7 per cent this year from last year's 70.25 million.

The United Nations' World Tourism Organisation (WTO) said a record 1 billion tourists crossed international borders this year, with mainland tourists the biggest growth driver, followed by Russians.

Dai said South Korea was expected to rank ahead of Japan as the most popular destination for mainland tourists this year, because of the prevailing tensions between China and Japan.

Other popular non-Chinese destinations included Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and neighbouring countries, followed by Australia, Russia, Europe and the United States.

Dai projected that outbound mainland tourists would spend US$85 billion this year, up 20 per cent from last year. Last year's statistics show half of the money was spent on shopping.

"More than a third of tourists we surveyed last year said shopping was their purpose for travelling abroad," Dai said.

The US consultancy firm Bain & Company, said Chinese consumers had overtaken US shoppers this year to become the world's biggest buyers of luxury goods, accounting for 25 per cent of global sales.

US consumers accounted for 20 per cent of the world's luxury sales, followed by Japanese shoppers at 14 per cent, it said. Its report also said that Chinese shoppers spent more than 60 per cent of their total outlay outside the mainland.

The mainland's domestic luxury sales, estimated to be worth 106 billion yuan last year, are expected to grow 7 per cent this year. That is a slowdown from last year's 30 per cent growth, with expansion of the world's second-largest economy slowing and more Chinese buying abroad.

Mainland tourists often shop in Europe, where they can save as much as 40 per cent on luxury watches because of the weaker euro and differences in tax or duties, Bain said.

Dai said there was still a lot of untapped potential in the Chinese tourism market because outbound tourists represented just over 5 per cent of the total population, lagging far behind developed countries. "Also, on average, each mainlander made only two trips, either inside China or abroad, last year," he said.

Dai said the mainland's outbound tourism market would keep growing by double-digit percentages for the next five years and that China would become the most visited country and biggest source of outbound tourists at the same time.

"People will become keener on cross-border travel as China increases international trade and services," he said. "Cheaper luxury goods abroad are another motivation."

He estimated that 200 million mainland tourists would make cross-border trips in 2020.

The WTO says tourism accounts for one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 per cent of exports by least developed countries.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg