China’s Outbound Tourism Is Beckoning. What’s Next?

China’s Outbound Tourism Is Beckoning. What’s Next - TRAVELINDEXBrussels, Belgium, February 1, 2023 / TRAVELINDEX / Is China back in the international market? How soon and to what degree? What does the new era look like? How should we prepare for it? Where does the sustainability piece fit in the puzzle?

The recent “China Tourists 2023 Webinar” addressed these questions and more. Presented by TourismWebinar, the event attracted high-level speakers and attendees worldwide, including former UNWTO Secretary-General, Dr. Taleb Rifai and first WTTC President, Geoffrey Lipman.

Dr. Reza Soltani organized the event. Previously engaged in international conference business, Soltani founded Tourism Webinars based in Belgium during the pandemic and has since produced over 50 webinars and symposiums with a broad range of topics.

Industry expert, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt kicked off the webinar. He is the Founder and CEO of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) based in Germany. Deeply involved in the Chinese tourism circle over a 45-year span, Arlt has seen China’s outbound tourism development from its infancy to its pinnacle and rock bottom.

Arlt gave a recount of China’s travel industry practices during the three-year pandemic. COTRI forecasts about 110 million outbound border crossings in 2023, and about 228 million in 2030; About 50% of the trips would be visiting Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan. Arlt laid out the changes and new trends in the industry and shared available resources/tools produced by COTRI.

Arlt and Gary Bowerman recently co-authored and published the book, China Outbound Tourism Handbook 2023: 88 Practical Ways to Prepare for the New Wave of Chinese Visitors. Bowerman is an Asia Travel Analyst for Phocuswright, Director of Check-in Asia, and Co-host for the South East Asia Travel Show podcast. He discussed more details of the book.

The 104-page book introduces the developmental drivers of the first 25 years of Chinese outbound tourism since 1997 and assesses the outlook up to 2030. It mainly focuses on 88 key themes that will influence the new wave of Chinese outbound travel, for example, Adventure Tourism, e-Payments, KOLs & KOCs, Metaverse and Mixed Reality, New Frugality, Patriotism and Winter Tourism. It includes citations from 48 countries/territories and 25 Chinese cities/provinces. With 264 practical tips, the book serves as “a practical handbook for applying insights into practice”. The book is now available on Amazon.

Other speakers at the Chinese Tourists 2023 Webinar included regional experts from Laos, Bhutan, Malaysia, etc. Shradha Shrestha with Nepal Tourism Board introduced the “Nepal Ready for China” initiative, which is an integrated G2G, B2B, B2C and C2C promotional approach.

Cathy Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong, based in Cambodia, spoke on behalf of the seven countries/regions organization. She emphasized that destinations need to focus on value over volume, and quality over quantity. She shared that the Mekong region has been working on better offerings in adventure travel/ecotourism, cultural heritage tourism, community-based tourism, etc. to Chinese visitors.

China’s outbound tourism accounted for nearly 20% of global tourism spending in 2019, cited by Professor Haiyan Song of SHTM, HK Polytechnic University. He presented the analysis of China’s outbound travel to Asian countries/regions along with retail expenditures, and he brought attention to a joint research project with WTTC on global retail tourism to be released in several months.

Former Executive Director of IATA and current President of SUNx Malta Geoffrey Lipman, spoke strongly about sustainability while driving economic terms. As an Envoy for Sustainable Tourism Global Center and lead for the new Tourism Panel on Climate Change (TPCC), Lipman urged the travel industry to ensure that predicted growth is sustainable in the sense of fitting into the SDGs and supporting the Paris 1.5 degrees maximum warming scenario.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China recently announced the opening of pilot outbound group tours for Chinese nationals to 20 countries, starting Feb. 6. While savvy travelers and young wanderlusts would opt for FIT and semi-customized travel, group tours will continue to hold a healthy market share with niche markets, such as youth groups and senior groups (55 and plus, with 280 million in China.)

In addition, the Ministry released the week-long Spring Festival holidays (Jan. 21-27) travel data: Domestic travelers totaled 308 million, an increase of 23.1% from 2022 and at 88.6% of the 2019 level; Tourism spending totaled RMB 375.84 billion, 30% increase from 2022 and at 73.1% of 2019 level. In a way, these data partially reflect China’s outbound tourism dynamics.

(To view the full Chinese Tourists Webinar:

Haybina Hao reporting for Travelindex on travel, agritourism, adventure travel, destinations, travel industry issues, etc.

Haybina is an international travel industry journalist and reports in both Chinese and English. Linkedin

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