If you are a tourism administration official, do you want your country to accommodate fewer visitors who stay longer and are more interested in the places they are visiting, or just crowds of package tours and short-term visitors who look for the cheapest products and do not really care about what they are taking photos of?
The former is surely the right answer. Actually, it is much better and more sustainable than the latter.
According to a recent analysis report published by Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, during the past 2018 Spring Festival holiday and winter vacation for schools, high-end overseas tours have become more popular among Chinese people than ever before.
According to the report, Antarctica, Argentina, Brazil, Tahiti, Norway, Tanzania, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand and Finland have been named as the 10 most expensive destinations for Chinese tourists during the holiday, of which Antarctica tops the extravagant list with an average cost as high as 160,000 yuan (US$25,437) per person.
Ten years ago, Chinese tourists might have been proud of having a chance to go abroad, no matter where the destination was. But nowadays, they are no longer satisfied with group travels. Chinese travelers are more sophisticated, more picky, more mature and more diversified. Such a tendency aligns with the emergence of a middle class in China, the increase of their incomes, their open-mindedness towards Western cultures, the increase of direct flights between international destinations and more convenient visa application procedures.
Having already traveled to many famous countries, middle-income or high-income Chinese consumers are now willing to experience something different. Their pursuit of personalized, tailor-made and quality traveling has resulted in more bookings to exotic places overseas and reflected their rising purchasing power. According to Ctrip, most outbound Chinese tourists are now families and couples, with the average expense for a family reaching about 100,000 yuan during the holiday.
Mature Chinese tourists are now looking to travel and live like locals. Previously, inexperienced Chinese tourists always stuck to famous countries and well-known cities in guided trips organized by travel agencies. But now they are more independent and eager to seek out new experience for themselves. Instead of luxurious hotels, Chinese tourists now prefer home sharing. According to Airbnb Inc., a U.S. home-sharing provider, outbound travel by Chinese users accounted for 71 percent of the company’s total bookings during the 2018 Spring Festival. Seasoned Chinese travelers’ desire to have an authentic and natural experience of other countries is growing stronger, which means that fewer Chinese will opt for package tours in the future.
Under these circumstances, foreign tourist destinations should advance with the times and develop new types of tourism products and new arrangements for Chinese tourists. In my point of view, it will be a good opportunity to develop special-interest and original-taste tourism programs involving history, museums, art, culture, cuisine, natural environment and ecological protection.
Meanwhile, for foreign marketers who want to court more visitors and profit from the trend, stereotyping Chinese tourists as all liking to go shopping and demanding to eat Chinese food all the time should be avoided.
Convenience is also an important factor in attracting Chinese tourists. A growing number of foreign tourism bureaus are opening accounts on the popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat. This enables Chinese to buy tickets for attractions before they start their trips. In many foreign malls and restaurants, Chinese customers can also make purchases using any form of Unionpay, WeChat Pay or Alipay.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)