“Higher-income, higher-educated Chinese tourists tend to go for individual vacations. The people who take group tours are the lower-income tourists,” says Jason Yap, the Asia-Pacific chief executive of Travelzoo, a company that provides information on travel deals to subscribers.
To avoid the emerging stereotype that travel agency tours are designed for the uncouth nouveau riche, younger, educated, and internet-savvy Chinese are striking out to make their own travel destinations.
In a recent Travelzoo survey of 470 Chinese, 41 percent says they would travel solo for leisure. Only 11 percent says they usually participated in group tours.
Popular solo destinations have been New York – to buy property – and South Korea – to get cosmetics surgery, according to the South China Morning Post.
Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute in Germany, says that because the Chinese seem to fear government crackdowns on excess, they believe “spending on luxury retail items or buying real estate overseas is a way to get money out of China and create emergency exit routes.”
Arlt adds that this year China would overtake the United States and Germany as the biggest outbound tourism market, with 95 million trips and $110 billion in spending. Next year, Chinese tourists would make more than 100 million overseas trips.
China Outbound Tourism reported that Chinese tourists made 83.2 million overseas visits and spent $98 billion last year. In 2011, according to Hotels.com, Chinese tourists spent an average of $169 per night in overseas hotels, the sixth-highest globally behind Japan ($190), Switzerland ($182), Australia ($177), the US ($174) and Norway ($174). Clearly, Chinese tourists have been steadily gaining purchasing power and will continue to set industry trends.
Hotels.com said that 58 percent of hoteliers in Europe planned to add Mandarin-speaking staff, and nearly as many (57 percent) planned to translate their hotel websites into Chinese. The study also found that 46 percent of American hotels already offered Mandarin versions of their websites.
Arlt is interested in seeing how the market develops from here on out. “Niche tourism products for the first time get to profit from Chinese customers,” said Arlt.
photo credit: chinese tourists