Maldives Recorded 65,148 Chinese Tourists In First Five Months Of 2011
We’ve become accustomed to seeing groups of Chinese tourist-shoppers swarming to luxury flagships in France, Spain, the UK, South Korea and New York (as well as duty-free shops around the world), but it turns out that outbound Chinese are interested in destinations a bit more off the beaten path as well. According to the Maldives Tourism Authority, for the first time ever, Chinese tourists have become the #1 source of foreign visitors to the small island chain, located southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, outnumbering the second-place Italians by over 18,000. In all, the Maldives recorded 65,148 Chinese visitors in the first five months of 2011, a significant 56.7 percent rise over the same period in 2010.
Much like other key markets that have become top destinations for Chinese tourists, hoteliers have been quick to make adjustments. As Simon Hawkins, an official from the Maldives Tourism Authority, told the AFP this week, “The Chinese don’t want the beach like the Europeans. They want activities, like visiting other islands, swimming classes, karaoke, discos, during the average five days they spend in the Maldives”. As the AFP also added, Chinese tourists have flocked to nearby Sri Lanka in ever-growing numbers as well this year, with 8,613 Chinese traveling to the island from January to June — a rise of 84 percent over 2010.
China’s outbound tourism boom has not gone unnoticed by premium retailers, tour operators or — perhaps most importantly — major hotel chains. Recently, Hilton, Starwood and Marriott have all announced personalized packages designed specifically to cater to the tastes of Chinese tourists, mirroring similar moves made by hoteliers in the 1970s and ’80s in response to Japan’s tourism boom.