It gives me great pleasure to present the 2017 edition of Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM). This is the sixth edition of our annual report on the unprecedented global impact of Chinese travelers – one of the most fascinating social and economic phenomena of our times. The report provides great insight into what motivates and inspires Chinese travelers across generations, pinpointing future trends as well as potential lucrative opportunities for businesses involved in the tourism industry.
Over the 6 years we have published CITM, considerable change has occurred. Every year the number of Chinese tourists traveling the globe has increased significantly. In 2016 there were 122 million outbound Chinese tourists, 4.3 per cent more than in 2015.
Along with increased affluence of Chinese citizens, the easing of visa restrictions around the globe has helped fuel the massive growth of Chinese international travelers. By January 2017 China had signed visa exemption and visa-on-arrival agreements with 61 countries, 9 more countries than the previous year. Countries such as the US, Canada, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Israel and Australia have also introduced 10-year multiple entry visas for Chinese tourists.1
This year CITM reveals some new and interesting trends in the evolving behavior and preferences of Chinese travelers. For example, group travel is becoming less and less popular while eco tours, theme tours and independent travel are well and truly on the rise for this increasingly discerning, experience-hungry and affluent group of travelers. Importantly, this applies across the generations.
Travelers born post 1960s have enthusiastically embraced more adventurous travel and are visiting more new destinations further from home. The younger generation of travelers born in the 1980s and 1990s – the millennials – are doing the same, so much so that many post 1980s millennials are putting off traditional life stages such as starting a family to travel more widely in a more intrepid style.
A new finding this year is just how much older and younger travelers are influencing each other in their travel preferences and choices. This is particularly true for post 60s traveling with their millennial children. Not surprisingly, post 90s millennials, particularly those without an income, are strongly influenced by their parents. More surprising is the fact that even post 60s travelers are strongly influenced by their more adventurous tech-savvy children, and are choosing much more independent styles of international travel as a result.
Shopping no longer holds the attraction it once held for Chinese travelers; leisure is the key motivation. And as air pollution problems in China continue to escalate, air quality and pristine natural environments are important factors in destination choice. According to the China National Tourism Administration, the number of Chinese choosing island destinations and eco tours accounted for 30 per cent of total outbound travelers in 2016.
Our research backs this up, with a higher percentage of travelers who chose island destinations in the past 12 months also showing a stronger preference for eco tours. Of those who traveled to non island destinations, 29 per cent chose to travel with eco tours compared with 39 per cent for Fiji, 39 per cent Guam, 34 per cent Maldives and 42 per cent New Zealand.When choosing accommodation, Chinese travelers will not stint on quality and are willing to pay for it. Hotels are still preferred over other forms of accommodation but millennials are starting to explore alternatives that offer a more local flavor.
Our research shows that the accommodation industry needs to build a better understanding of these more diverse and adventurous travelers and adapt to the changing needs and preferences from all age groups given their significant spending power, sheer numbers and ability to boost local economies. Hotels.com reflects this, with our accommodation offerings continually expanding to include a growing number of boutique style and unique local stays – even treehouses!
This year we have further refined the 5 different Chinese traveler personas revealed in last year’s CITM. This provides a powerful tool for businesses in the travel industry to more effectively meet the evolving needs of Chinese international travelers in the future.
1 China National Tourism Administration