1.12 Million Chinese Tourists Visited Thailand In First Half Of 2012
A roundup of recent news from the Chinese outbound tourism market, from a record number of Chinese travelers visiting Thailand to Hawaii’s golf advantage and a unique fashion giveaway in Australia.
China Tops List of Foreign Tourists in Thailand for First Time
Benefiting from the two countries’ close proximity and a surge in the number of Chinese travelers exploring Southeast Asia, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand in the first six months of this year surged 28.9 percent year-over-year to 1.12 million, surpassing the one million mark and besting long-time leader Malaysia for the first time. Via Thailand Business News:
Officials believe that China will maintain its spot as the top source of incoming tourists to Thailand. “All the markets are doing well, but growth of the China market is phenomenal,” Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the head of the TAT’s International Relations, told Chinese news agency Xinhua in July.
He added that with data showing the Chinese were not only visiting Thailand in growing numbers but also spending more, the TAT planned to work with hotels and tour companies to promote tourism and make the country more accessible to Chinese nationals.
Thailand’s new master plan should provide the foundations for the country to continue building its successful tourism industry. The governing tourism bodies are likely to maintain the focus on attracting a diverse range of visitors from both proven growth markets, such as Russia and China, and the traditionally strong East Asian sources, while also improving industry-related infrastructure.
As Jing Daily noted in June, Thailand is well-placed to capitalize not only on the growing numbers of first-time Chinese outbound tourists heading to nearby Southeast Asian countries, but also more seasoned travelers looking for therapeutic tourism rather than the usual luxury shopping spree or bus tour. Last year, Thailand’s Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi lured around 1.4 million Chinese tourists preferring a “back-to-nature” experience to a sanitized five-star “experience.” Often, packages in Thailand and Malaysia combine therapeutic tourism with medical tourism, looking to attract more middle-aged Chinese travelers.
Hawaii Turns to Golf to Lure More Chinese Travelers
Though recent overtures to the China market have yet to pay off in a massive way, Hawaii think it has one advantage that should attract a certain class of Chinese outbound traveler — namely, world-class golf courses. With wealthy Chinese increasingly hitting the links, not only for recreation but also as a preferred spot for doing business, Hawaii, with the help of golf superstar Greg Norman and entrepreneur Du Sha, is using the sport to lure more experiential travelers from China. From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Pacific Links International, title sponsor of this week’s Pacific Links Hawaii Championship at Kapolei Golf Course, will launch a membership program in China on Tuesday that will use Hawaii as a hub for golfers seeking to play multiple courses in the United States. More than 1,000 Chinese, representing 54 of the 73 top clubs in Beijing, are expected at the event.
Owned by Chinese entrepreneur Du Sha, Pacific Links has bought four Oahu golf courses in the past two years and is negotiating to buy two more on Maui.
PGA Tour professional Greg Norman, who was in Honolulu as the ambassador for the inaugural 54-hole Pacific Links Hawaii Championship that begins Friday, said the future economic impact of Chinese golf tourism for Hawaii is staggering.
“Once this thing fully matures with 25,000 members, think about 25,000 new golfers coming into Hawaii. It will be a huge economic impact because they’re not coming for just one day, they’re coming for multiple days,” said Norman, the featured speaker Wednesday at a business luncheon sponsored by First Hawaiian Bank at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort.
“I know that the Chinese like to experience everything that goes on around,” he said. “I’ve seen them come into pro shops and buy 20 shirts, 30 shirts. So the rub-off that will take place economic-wise will be huge.”
Though dwarfed by the 600,000 Japanese travelers who head to Hawaii annually, Chinese visitors are the highest-spending tourist group in Hawaii. In the first half of this year, Chinese tourists spent an average of US$407 per person per day on the islands, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Total Chinese spending in Hawaii more than doubled in the first half of 2012 to $150.6 million, up from $71 million last year, with the total number of visitors rising nearly 43 percent to 49,171.
Special Edition Harper’s Bazaar for Chinese Tourists in Sydney
Long popular with Chinese tourists, property buyers and students, another island destination — Australia — is looking to cater to the whims of wealthy Chinese visitors via the power of media. In commemoration of Chinese New Year 2013, Sydney will partner with ACP Magazines to produce a special Chinese-language edition of Harper’s Bazaar to be distributed to Chinese tourist arrivals in the city. From the Australian:
[ACP] partnered with the City of Sydney for the initiative, which will see the magazine’s content translated into simplified Mandarin in a print and a digital edition.
“We know that luxury retailers are benefiting from wealthy Chinese tourists travelling to Australia and in January there will now be a luxury fashion magazine featuring the beautiful fashion imagery for which Harper’s Bazaar is renowned, plus a shopping, cultural and entertainment guide in Chinese,” said editor Kellie Hush.
The magazine will be distributed in targeted locations including five star hotels, casinos and airport duty-free shops in Australia and in Asia.
For the second consecutive year, Australia ranks third after France and the US as a top international tourist destination for wealthy Chinese, with the number of visitors from China to Sydney alone skyrocketing to 542,000 last year (over less than 500 in 1972). Chinese arrivals in New South Wales grew nearly eight percent last year to 303,000, with those visitors spending a record AUD$1.2 billion. Looking to keep that momentum going, this June Tourism Australia launched a US$250 million global campaign, “There’s Nothing Like Australia” in China.
As Tourism Australia’s Managing Director, Andrew McEvoy, said at the launch, China could account for around 900,000 annual visitors to Australia within a few years, contributing around AUD$9 billion per year to the local economy. Unlike France and Britain, countries that promote their shopping and spending options and sightseeing and cultural options roughly evenly, Australia’s new campaign is focused mainly on natural beauty, environment and personal space — three things increasingly scarce in urban China.