The past year has seen a slew of sociopolitical issues call into question China’s relationship with numerous Western countries. While highlighting the effects of geopolitics upon the tourism industry is typically a secondary concern, for China Travel H1 2019, political issues from the U.S. China trade dispute to Canada’s diplomatic kerfuffle with Beijing to the ongoing unrest on Hong Kong’s streets have all impacted the flow of the world’s largest outbound market.
With the U.S. experiencing a 5.7% dip of Chinese arrivals in 2018, and Hong Kong expected to lose 350,000 mainland tourists in the coming months, black clouds certainly linger for destinations deemed politically fraught by Chinese tourists. Broadly speaking, however, Chinese outbound travel continues its unassailable rise.
The first quarter of 2019 saw a 12.7 percent increase in FIT travel, in addition, millennials are increasingly making big plans for short breaks, and Chinese travelers more generally are exploring a wider range of international destinations, according to Hotelbeds.
Here, Jing Travel shares some on China travel H1 2019, continent by continent:
The warning signs were ominous, but Hawaiian Tourism Authority’s announcement that Chinese visitors have dropped 36 percent should alarm those connected to the U.S. tourism industry. Government travel warnings and negative media reports, some justified others spurious, are fueling this shift with Chinese tourists finding equally attractive destinations in other corners of the globe.
The U.S. still ranked among the top 10 most popular destinations for Chinese travelers in May, but the 10 percent dip in tourist numbers matched with the 11.9 percent decrease in Chinese tourism spending in New York in Q1 2019 gives a bleak picture for the road ahead.
Canada’s picture is more mixed. January saw the country receive a record number of tourists for the Chinese New Year, but the diplomatic dispute surrounding Huawei paired with tightening visa regulations is countering such increases.
Key Takeaway: “The Chinese outbound tourism market is incredibly sensitive about security issues.”
Europe may already be benefitting from the backlash of negative Chinese sentiment towards the U.S. The continent experienced a 16.9 percent increase in bookings across the first four months of 2019 and the hotel sector is also profiting with figures from May showing a 40 percent year-on-year increase in reservations.
Although traditional Western European destinations remain highly appealing — UK destinations were researched 133% more times by Chinese compared to 2018 — the highest growth is taking place in southern Europe where Chinese are looking for new and exciting destinations. Year-on-year increases of Chinese tourists are as follows: Montenegro 44 percent, Serbia 39 percent, Croatia 53 percent, and Cyprus 125 percent. Admittedly, such growth is launching from a relatively low base, but the increasing ease of accessing these locations coupled with smart visa schemes is aiding such growth.
Key Takeaway: “Visa waivers from Serbia and Montenegro have had a big impact and there is also a trend of Chinese travelers looking for a new destination.”
The desirability of Australia and New Zealand as destinations tied with the plethora of connecting flights ensures a certain level of longevity where Chinese outbound tourism to the region is concerned.
That said, New Zealand’s dispute with China over Huawei’s potential 5G network in addition to diminishing trade between the two countries has seen tourism numbers decrease by 21 percent year-on-year. Tensions in the bilateral relationship were highlighted when Beijing decided to postpone the New Zealand-China Year of Tourism and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s visit to China was likewise delayed. New Zealand, however, remains a desirable destination for Chinese tourists on the basis of its photographic natural scenery and range of recreational activities, but the speed of recovery remains unclear..
By contrast, Australia seems to be finding a sweet spot. Despite experiencing slowing growth — 2.9 percent increase in arrivals between April 2018 to March 2019 — the total spending of Chinese tourists has increased 10 percent, which shows Australia is succeeding in attracting higher spending tourists.
Key Takeaway: “Research from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute shows that tourism years really have no correlation with increased arrivals whatsoever.”
Growth across Asia remains fairly stable, although Vietnam and Thailand, two longtime go-to destinations for Chinese travelers saw 3.3 percent and 8.5 decreases respectively. In the case of Thailand, some analysis have pointed to blowback from the Phuket boat accident, which killed 41 Chinese tourists, but the dip might more generally be attributable to Chinese tourists searching for new destinations.
Accordingly, Myanmar is experiencing exponential growth at 140 percent and with strong numbers coming through China travel H1 2019 the future looks positive for the southeast Asian nations. Japan saw numbers also grow 11.7 percent H1 2019, and South Korea seems to be finally recovering from 2017’s tourism ban with a 30 percent increase so far this year.
Key Takeaway: “Arrivals to Vietnam and Thailand are down but this may just be because Chinese tourists are visiting new or different Asian destinations.”
Topic: China Travel H1 2019