Chinese outbound travelers booked their National Day holiday/Golden Week trips in over 1,000 cities in 100 countries, according to data from Asia’s largest travel services provider, Ctrip.com International. But while they traveled to a range of destinations, the majority of travelers stuck with short-haul flights around Asia, boosting tourism numbers to Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and other nearby countries.
Overall travel during the week reached impressive levels, and the number of flights and passenger traffic increased, as reported by China’s Civil Aviation Administration. The number of flights, both domestic and international, increased 6.1 percent year-on-year during the holiday and transported more than 12.2 million passengers, state-run media Xihua reported.
Domestic and international flights carried more than 12.2 million passengers during the holiday
Of all outbound travelers, 56 percent opted for holidays that lasted at least a week, according to the Ctrip report. The longer holiday bookings were to farther destinations in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, but overall, the most popular countries were Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore, respectively. Meanwhile, destinations that saw greater than 50 percent year-on-year growth in Chinese arrivals were South Korea, Croatia, Mexico, Serbia, and Tunisia.
In another report from the online travel agency (OTA) Tuniu, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Austria, United Arab Emirates, and the Czech Republic were the top long-haul destinations during the holiday. The OTA also noted that the top short-haul destinations were Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
London was the only city outside Asia that made it into Ctrip’s top 10 overseas destinations
While many Chinese travelers chose to take a longer holiday and head to far-off destinations, no city outside Asia was among the top five most popular. London was the only non-Asian city to make Ctrip’s top 10.
Here are the top five destination cities for outbound Chinese travelers for the National Day holiday, according to combined data from Ctrip, Skyscanner, and VariFlight and reported by Tianxun.
Of Chinese tourists to Japan, 76 percent listed sightseeing as the primary purpose for travel, followed by Japanese food (30 percent) and shopping (38 percent), according to a survey by Baidu Japan released in February. And with a plethora of dining options throughout the city, in addition to the museums that include Ghibli Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art, everything a traveler could want is a short distance from Narita International Airport.
Taiwan has seen a significant drop in tourism from China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, but the downward trend has slowed in recent months. Chinese tourists, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, still account for about 25 percent of all tourist arrivals to Taiwan.
Shopping has gotten easier around Taiwan as many retailers, particularly convenience stores, have embraced Alipay and WeChat Pay. The mobile payment options have spread across Taiwan since 2015, and the expansion in the market has been more rapid as retailers look for ways to attract more tourists.
And while most tourists spent their holiday in Taipei, Ctrip notes that one of the top five museum tickets purchased through its Things To Do (TTD) platform was the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan.
Seoul has attracted Chinese tourists for shopping over the years, particularly with its fashion markets. South Korea, however, has seen a steep decline in tourist arrivals from China following diplomatic tensions over the THAAD missile defense system that led Beijing to impose travel restrictions to the country. China has since lifted the travel restrictions and Chinese tourists have begun to visit again.
Spending has gotten easier for Chinese tourists as well, with Alipay offering paperless tax refunds at the airport. With more younger travelers prioritizing entertainment over shopping, Ctrip noted that tickets for the dance and art performance “The Painters: HERO” at Seoul Theater were popular during the holiday. Tickets for the non-verbal performance could be purchased through a Chinese website.
Thailand has long been a popular destination for Chinese travelers, as it attracts luxury and budget travelers alike. The city also offers a variety of sights and foods for tourists, and while Tokyo has overtaken the city as the top-ranked outbound travel destination, it continues to place as a perennial favorite for outbound travelers. It was ranked the top destination during the holiday based on WeChat GPS data (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) with Tokyo taking the third spot.
The city has also made some moves over the years to better accommodate Chinese travelers. The Thai capital’s Suvarnabhumi Airport ranked as the fifth most popular destination supporting mobile payments, according to Alipay.
As Ctrip found that 54 percent of travelers said their top reason for traveling was food and entertainment, it’s no surprise that Osaka made the list. Dotonbori, known as a tourist culinary and nightlife destination, attracted a significant number of mobile payment transactions during the holiday, according to data from Alipay. The mobile payment service listed the neighborhood as the second most popular destination based on consumption.
Binglun He contributed to this story.