China’s tourism is expanding and changing mainly due to their growing middle class. Most Chinese tourists traveling abroad still travel using buses to visit a certain number of cities over a 10-day or two-week period, but closer to one-third of these travelers now book their own trips from China. Those one-third spend more money and stay longer in each destination than has previously been seen.
The Economist estimates that one out of every 10 international tourists traveling worldwide is Chinese. There were 97.3 million outward-bound trips leaving China in 2013, and these travelers spent approximately $129 billion, the most by any group. The United States came in second at $86 billion for comparison. Shopping is vital to the Chinese destination choices according to more than 80 percent of Chinese travelers, compared with 56 percent of Middle Eastern and 48 percent of Russian tourists. The expectation for 2015 is that Chinese tourists will purchase more luxury goods while traveling abroad than all other tourists combined.
Visa and passport restrictions have decreased, allowing tourism numbers to grow. The number of foreign trips from China is expected to double by 2020 and spending is expected to triple.
Businesses are giving out gifts to Chinese tourists around the Chinese New Year and creating apps to enhance their experiences. Hotels and luxury shops are accepting Chinese currency and Union Pay, which is their major credit card company. A Dutch jewelry chain travels to China every year to promote their business with travel agents in hopes of attracting the best customers.
The Economist’s April article stated that the biggest hurdle countries face in getting a share of these profits is the VISA application. In 2013, while Americans and Britons could visit over 170 countries without a pre-arranged visa, Chinese citizens could only visit 44. China’s expanding tourism extends to Britain less than most places because it requires its own visa.
In an article last month on Reuters, Britain is working toward their own fix. They are overhauling their system using a streamlined process that would grant visas to Chinese visitors within 24 hours. Both businesses and tourists will use a single form for the British visa application and the Schengen visa. The latter allows access to 26 countries in Europe.
Within the next six months Chinese tourists who hold an Irish visitor’s visa will be able to use that to visit the United Kingdom and vice versa. A report by Barclays shared in May projects the spending of Chinese tourists to surpass the 1 billion pound mark by 2017. That would be an increase of 84 percent over 2013 figures.
Research shows that the difficulty of obtaining a visa has been the main reason for Chinese tourists not visiting the U.K. About 196,000 visited during 2013 spending on average 2,508 pounds, or $4,200, which is four times the average that other foreigners spend in the U.K.
The U.K. is one of many countries hoping to capitalize on this expanding Chinese middle class tourism. In the United States, California and New York make sure they have mandarin-speaking sales people in their shops, hotels and business, especially during the Chinese New Year. Economies worldwide are benefiting from the increased expansion of China’s tourism.