After becoming the world’s largest bloc of outbound travelers in 2012, Chinese tourists gained a bigger lead in 2013—and their numbers aren’t even close to done rising.
According to an update by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), China is the largest outbound tourism market for the second year in a row, after surpassing Germany in 2012. A recent report by the Tourist Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences finds that this amounted to 97 million Chinese tourists that traveled abroad for the year. The UNWTO states that Chinese tourists saw an increase in travel expenditure of 28 percent in the first three quarters of 2013.
However, this number is only the tip of the iceberg. A new report by Asia brokerage group CLSA predicts that the number will double in six years, hitting 200 million by 2020. The company states that higher pay, more annual leave, relaxed visa policies, worsening mainland pollution, and overloaded domestic tourism infrastructure will all be factors driving a new wave of Chinese travelers abroad in the coming years.
Luxury brands are set to benefit from this growth. According to the report, demand for luxury goods from Greater China expanded by 135 percent from 2009 to 2012, and will comprise 50 percent of the total luxury goods market by 2020, rising from today’s 31 percent share. Eighty percent of Chinese tourists surveyed for the report said they purchased goods from local specialty shops, and 60 percent from duty-free travel stores.
Many other tourism industries will benefit from this surge as well. “Explosive projected growth in outbound Greater China travel numbers offers immense opportunity for countries to benefit from Chinese tourists’ desire for new experiences—from sightseeing to food, to hotels, to gaming and shopping,” said Aaron Fischer, CLSA’s head of consumer and gaming research. “Tourists will become increasingly savvy, independent and demand high quality experiences and service.”
As for dream destinations, CLSA projects that top nearby stops Hong Kong and Macau will lose a substantial share of the total number of mainland tourists as they head off for more “exotic” locales. While visitor numbers to these destinations are expected to decline from 62 percent to 45 percent of total outbound Chinese tourists, the United States and France are expected to see a major influx by 2020, with 5.7 million visitors to the United States and 3.9 million to France.
The report offers several additional short-term predictions that should please businesses hoping to attract Chinese tourists. According to CLSA’s survey, 64 percent of respondents are interested in traveling overseas in the next 12 months and 67 percent plan to increase their travel budget.