China’s outbound tourist market continues to grow at a rapid pace. Given this, Beijing has moved to further open this vast and lucrative market to allow for more wholly foreign-owned companies to sell outbound travel products to Chinese consumers. The proposal, made by Cao Pengcheng, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, still needs to be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, but Beijing authorities are confident it will be sanctioned at the state level shortly.
Foreign-owned travel companies will likely have access to the outbound travel market in Beijing in the near future
Foreign-owned tourism agencies have been active in China since 2003, but have been unable to sell outbound travel services. A change in this policy would give unprecedented foreign access to the immense Chinese overseas tourist market, and would allow foreign travel companies that meet the specified requirements to operate in China without a Chinese partner. Currently, the proposal would only open the market in Beijing; however, if approved by national authorities, similar policy shifts in other major Chinese markets like Guangdong, Shanghai, and Zhejiang may follow.
The approval for foreign-owned tourism companies to operate at the state level could lead to an expansion to the national level
While it’s yet to be seen if a foreign-owned travel agency could dominate the travel market alongside the likes of Alibaba’s Fliggy or Ctrip, Asia’s largest travel service, it’s possible that foreign-owned newcomers could snag a small but substantial piece of this ever-increasing market. And considering how big the Chinese market is and could be — one-fifth of all tourism spending around the world in 2017 was attributed to Chinese travelers — this could prove to be extremely profitable.
Even better, it will allow foreign-owned travel companies to experiment in how to better cater travel products to the Chinese travel market, and to reach even more specific demographics. To date, many major long-haul destinations in the Western world are still relatively niche for Chinese tourists, so being able to better market to specific demographics could pay off in a big way going forward.