For some international destinations courting Chinese travelers, it looks like marketing efforts—and political alliances—are paying off richly.

A new ranking of the younger Chinese tourists’ “Bucket List” or most desired global destinations for 2018, is led by two spots that have recently strengthened ties with mainland China.

Panama takes the top spot for Chinese travelers born after 1990, according to data compiled by Alibaba’s online travel agency Fliggy and data analysis firm CBNData and reported by Dragon Trail Interactive. CBNData surveyed 1,200 travelers of all ages in September 2018 who had traveled abroad within the last three years.

Panama is considered an up-and-coming destination for Chinese travelers, particularly as it formed official diplomatic ties with China in June 2017 after decades of support for Taiwan. China approved 64 Panamanian tour operators to provide tour packages to Chinese travelers starting in August of this year.

In March, Air China began twice weekly flights between Panama City and Beijing, with a layover in Houston.

minsk belarus

Belarus signed a mutual visa-free travel agreement with China. Photo: Shutterstock

The second most popular destination on the travel wishlist is Belarus, which began offering visa-free travel for Chinese passport holders in August. Belarusian Deputy Sports and Tourism Minister Mikhail Portnoi said in September that the country expects at least a 15-percent annual increase in Chinese tourist arrivals. He added that the country had already welcomed 17,000 Chinese tourists in the first eight months of the year.

Belarus expects Chinese tourist arrivals to increase at least 15 percent each year

Among the top-10 wishlist destinations for this demographic, only South Korea is also in the top 10 international destinations for the year among Chinese travelers. Number four on the wishlist is Ireland, which recently teamed up with National Geographic to tour a photograph exhibition of Irish sites throughout China. Ireland’s stated goal is to double its number of Chinese tourists by 2025.

The only other European nations to make the list are the United Kingdom and Iceland at sixth and seventh, respectively. Although the U.S. was not on the wishlist, the commonwealth of North Mariana Islands made the list at number nine. And choices such as Algeria illustrate that Chinese tourists are showing growing interest in travel to North Africa.

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