The usual suspects – Rome, London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Barcelona – are kings when it comes to Chinese arrivals. Cities like Paris and Rome, for instance, record high spending figures for designer and high-end shopping, and are continually expanding their services to cater to the Chinese market.
However, lesser-traveled countries in Europe are seeing significant growth and could well shape travel trends in the region. For example Serbia saw the highest year-on-year growth in Chinese arrivals in the first half of 2017 at 161.7 percent.
Serbia is a new hit among Chinese tourists
More destinations understand that WeChat is a different ball game than western channels and they’re getting smarter about how to reach Chinese travelers on the platform. The challenge is showing how Paris, for instance, is different from a city in Belgium or Germany that also wants to attract more tourism.
More destinations using WeChat in their Chinese marketing
The number of visitors London attracts from China is expected to double to 330,000 by 2025, according to forecast issued by the office of the UK capital's mayor. Chinese visitors' spending in London is also set to rise 129 percent. Each Chinese visitor spends an average of about 1,800 pounds during their stay in London, twice the 900-pound-per-week gross weekly household income in London.
Chinese also love London
Chinese tourists are spending more than ever on holidays with a projected growth of US$315 billion in 2017 to US$457 billion in 2020. It’s no surprise then that hospitality, tourism, and retail giants are scrambling to figure out how to maintain and expand their Chinese markets. Despite extensive research about Chinese traveling patterns, many of them are still stereotyped while simultaneously depended upon by global markets.
Chinese tourists browse luxury handbags at a Louis Vuitton outlet in Bangkok
Tourism Australia, an Australian government agency responsible for attracting international visitors, just announced to collaborate with China’s major payment service provider UnionPay International, to encourage Chinese visitors’ spending in Australia.
Tourism Australia reporting on Chinese tourism
New app allows travellers to take photos of foreign language signs and text and automatically translate them. The language barrier discourages Chinese from travelling independently. Ctrip has teamed up with Baidu, the Chinese search engine, to provide a new translation service for Chinese tourists abroad. According to a report by the China Tourism Academy and Ctrip, more than 62 million mainland Chinese travelled abroad in the first half of 2017, up 5% year-on-year. More than half (58%) of these were independent travellers.
The language barrier discourages Chinese from travelling independently, Ctrip claims
China operates the world’s largest censorship system, known as the Great Firewall, blocking thousands of websites including popular platforms such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube and a host of foreign news outlets. Xi, who came to power five years ago, has pushed for tighter government controls on what information Chinese citizens inside the country can access in the name of “cyber sovereignty”.
Almost all western social media are blocked in China
Last year, around 60 percent of Chinese tourists chose to travel on their own, according to a report by digital travel agency Ctrip and the China Tourism Academy. Touring Spain last month, Ding joined forces with five friends, who rented a car and booked apartments they found online. “Traveling in a group is stressful and tiring,” she said. Ding added she prefers going at her own pace to following an agency’s tightly packed schedule.
“Traveling in a group is stressful and tiring”
From beaches to desert trekking or taking in the birdseye view from the top of the world's tallest building, Dubai and other countries in the region tell visitors there is a lot to do.
The marketing message seems to be working in Asia, because the number of Chinese tourists taking a holiday in the Middle East has soared over the last year.
Tourism to the Middle East booming
Research shows that Chinese travelers have a unique set of wants and needs when it comes to how they book their travel and the methods they use to pay for them.
Worldpay, a leader in the electronic payment services industry, recently surveyed 12,000 people in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the US, who’ve booked a flight or a vacation package in the last year, to better understand which devices travelers use and how they prefer to pay when abroad. The study found that Chinese travelers stand out in a few ways.
Chinese travelers venturing abroad spent $261 billion on foreign travel in 2016, a 12% increase over 2015, which represents a new record for global outbound tourist spending.
Chinese tourists spent more than any other country’s outbound travelers last year and are already the largest outbound travel market with some 135 million Chinese traveling outside China last year, a 6% increase year-on-year, according to data released this week by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Skift reported.
Alipay and UniCredit have launched a new partnership that will see Chinese visitors in Italy able to purchase goods and service using their Alipay apps.
The firms utilised infrastructure from SIA to enable Alipay payments in a pool of 120,000 merchants across Italy. Among the names to offer Alipay integration are food and drink vendor Eataly and fashion brand Antonia. Pisa Orologerie, Morellato, Fedon and Mitsukoshi will also be on board in the coming weeks.
Cobh Tourism is the first destination in the Republic of Ireland to be awarded with a Chinese Tourist Welcome Certification, recognised by tour operators in China.
Cobh already attracts Chinese visitors but they wanted to bring their offering to the next level in order to entice more visitors, prolong their stay, and ensure they leave with a positive experience of the town’s many tourism attractions and experiences.
Receiving tourism certificate
So, who are China’s independent travelers? According to the data presented by Skyscanner and UnionPay, the lion’s share of all Chinese independent travelers are part of the millennial generation—68 percent of independent travelers are between 15 and 34 years old.
The report also reaffirms that a majority of China’s independent travelers are educated—94 percent of independent travelers hold degrees equivalent to or higher than college school.
Gender ratio (top left), age distribution (top right), and level of education (bottom) among China’s independent travelers
Europe has seen a major recovery of tourism coming from China, with statistics showing that the number of Chinese tourists visiting the continent has more than doubled in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
Eastern Europe and Northern Europe saw the fastest growth, following last year's meagre growth of just 6.3 percent.
Italy, Germany and Britain were among the favourite European destinations for Chinese tourists in the first quarter of 2017
China's leading car-hailing service provider Didi Chuxing (Uber competitor) has worked with Finnish Lapland tourism bureau to give Chinese tourists an authentic Christmas experience during the holiday season. Without having to travel to Rovaniemi, users of Didi Chuxing have been offered the surreal experience of touring around the Santa Claus village and make wishes to Saint Nick through the virtual reality (VR) function on the Didi app.
Using the VR option on the company's app, Didi Chuxing have been spreading some Christmas spirit in China.
The announcement was first made by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. The EU-China Tourism Year represents an excellent opportunity for both regions to boost the travel sector.
More Chinese coming to Europe
Alipay’s new partnerships will enable Chinese travelers to use the Alipay app in a similar fashion to how it works domestically—as a shopping portal that makes it an interesting advertising tool for merchants that accept Alipay. Through the Alipay app, Chinese tourists will be able to find nearby retailers that accept Alipay using their smartphones’ geolocation feature.
China-U.S. Tourism Year 2016 came to the end on Sunday, with officials from both countries pledging to expand tourism cooperation and enhance friendship. Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday that the China-U.S. Tourism Year has helped expand people-to-people exchanges and given fresh impetus to bilateral relations.
“As we close the Tourism Year and look to the future, I want to assure all of you that we will continue to promote more traveling and tourism between our two nations”
A cheaper yuan tends to make overseas trips more expensive for Chinese travellers. But judging by the numbers — the depreciation is not holding back China’s outbound tourists. The impact from the weak yuan on Chinese tourists going abroad is being offset by the holiday joy.
A tourism website founder said: “The yuan’s drop has had a limited impact. Chinese tourists want something more"