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Europe: Is It New Hotspot for Chinese Travellers?
Europe: Is It New Hotspot for Chinese Travellers?

How many Chinese-speaking guides, waiters and taxi drivers has Europe prepared for the expected legions of tourists from this country?

More specifically, as most Chinese people travelling to Europe love high-class fashion, can cities like Paris, Rome, Berlin and London find enough Chinese-speaking shop assistants?

Chinese people are expected to make 100 million overseas trips in 2020, and according to industry researchers, their favourite destinations will possibly shift from Asia-Pacific to Europe in the process.

Between now and 2010 during the forthcoming 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) period the country's overall travel industry is expected to grow at 8 per cent per year.

That's according to China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) officials.

Shen Huirong, director of the Tourism Promotion and International Liaison Department of CNTA, told China Daily the country's outbound tourism sector will grow by 10 per cent each year.

Wei Xiao'an, a researcher with the Travel Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, quoted figures from the World Travel and Tourism Organization, which indicated that in 2020, China will be the world's fourth-largest source of outbound tourists.

The number of Chinese travellers going overseas has been going up rapidly. In 2005, some 31 million Chinese travelled overseas, including to Hong Kong and Macao, according to Shao Qiwei, CNTA director. This year, that number is expected to reach 40 million, an annual growth rate of almost 30 per cent.

Such predictions are derived from the fact that China's per capita GDP surpassed US$1,000 in 2003 and has been on the rise ever since. As well as having more money to spend, the opening up of the nation is bringing with it an increasing desire among its people to "see the world," Wei said.

He noted that one of the tasks of the newly drafted Five-Year Plan is to stimulate the domestic marketplace and hopefully alter an economy heavily dependent on exports. In the process, the tourism industry will play a more important role.

In order to help more Chinese people travel overseas, CNTA officials have said the industry will do more to expand tourist destinations and negotiate for simpler procedures in foreign countries.

"We are currently under discussion with many nations and regions," Shen said.

Market data shows that when Chinese people travel, they tend to love shopping. Few in the travel industry have questioned the findings of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, in a report released in December 2004. It said the per capita spending of Chinese tourists was among the highest in the world.

When Chinese tourists shop, they also tend to be keen on fashion and brands. For those who go to Europe, clothes tend to account for 30 per cent of their total shopping expenditure, followed by jewellery and watches, souvenirs, leather products, perfume and cosmetics.

They even buy things carrying "made-in-China" tags in Europe because they believe they look better and are trendier than items at home, Wei explained. Luxury goods are also cheaper than in China because of different tariff rates.

With the number of private travellers on the rise, Wei added, demand may be rising for new travel programmes and activities.

Now Asian countries and regions receive 90 per cent of China's outbound travellers, and eight out of their top 10 outbound destinations are in Asia.

So said a survey released by the International Forum on Chinese Outbound Tourism hosted by the Beijing Tourism Administration in November 2005.

However, "after well-to-do travellers have seen enough of Asia, they will start to go to different places, for different views and different fun," said Sun Changwei, general manager of the outbound department of China Youth Travel Service.

Li Shuang, sales manager of China Women's Travel Service, told China Daily the number of Chinese visitors going to Europe is already on the rise. In the last couple of years, European trips contributed 20-30 per cent of the company's growth in customers and revenue. 

China Daily

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