China’s National Bureau of Statistics recently released data tracking citizens’ leisure time over the past 10 years, and the findings indicate that an increase in the amount of free time over the past decade has also led to an increase in outbound travel.

The report notes that Chinese citizens have a total of 1 hour and 5 minutes of free time per day, about 25 minutes more than in 2008 — the comes to more than 16 days for leisure activities. Those hours have led to changing habits that include more travel, both international and domestic, which has also been met with increased wages during the period. The free time per day is averaged from time off work throughout the year, including national holidays and paid time off.

Average wages a decade ago were just over $4,300 (RMB 29,000) per year, though major cities like Beijing and Shanghai had higher salaries. The average has risen to nearly $11,900 (RMB 80,000), with many among the traveling population having much more in disposable income. They’ve also seen an obvious increase in internet usage, forcing travel industry players to seek ways to obtain a share of the 2 hours and 42 minutes per day Chinese citizens spend online. The most reliable method thus far is to engage the younger social media users through WeChat and Weibo campaigns.

In 2008, Chinese travelers took about 45 million outbound trips, and that figure increased to 162 million in 2018. Domestic tourism has also tripled in the period.

Museums and cultural institutions have benefited from the increased free time as well. Chinese citizens visited a museum more than 1 billion times last year during their domestic and international travels, reinforcing other surveys that state Chinese tourists are more interested in cultural experiences than shopping.

Destinations, however, may find it difficult to vie for Chinese tourists’ leisure time in the future as the government has been promoting more so-called “Red Tourism” (military and Chinese Communist Party tourist destinations) to younger generations to stoke greater nationalistic feelings and raise domestic consumption. According to government research institute China Tourism Academy, post-’80s parents, who grew up traveling around China more than those born in the ’90s or later, are more likely to choose red tourism when traveling with their children.

For destination marketing organizations (DMOs), the key markets for outbound travel may be older generations that have reached retirement age or the younger crowd of Generation Z eager to see the world.

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