Despite worries about slowing economic growth, China’s outbound tourism growth numbers are still rapidly rising as shopping remains a high travel priority, according to newly released official statistics.
Chinese outbound tourist spending quadrupled over the past six years to reach $164.8 billion last year, according to the official China Tourism Academy’s “China Outbound Tourism Development Annual Report” released on August 28. The reports states that in 2014, Chinese outbound tourist growth climbed by 19.5 percent year-on-year to reach 107 million, topping 100 million for the first time.
And while Chinese travelers are increasingly headed to adventurous locations and putting a growing emphasis on experiential travel, the academy finds that shopping is still their number one source of spending. In fact, Chinese travelers spent a staggering average of 88 percent of their trip budget on shopping, with over 40 percent of them spending over 15,000 yuan ($2,340) per trip. As a result, major shopping destinations ranked high on the list of countries visited, with the top five being South Korea, Thailand, Japan, the United States, and Vietnam.
The academy cited wider availability of UnionPay, easier access to visas, and increased capabilities of travel agencies as key factors behind the growth. Visa applications to foreign countries and regions have become easier than ever for Chinese tourists—the academy reports that 52 countries have now implemented a visa waiver or visa-on-arrival program for Chinese travelers. Meanwhile, the growing availability of UnionPay at retailers and hoteliers across the world has encouraged spending abroad as it has become the top choice of payment for outbound Chinese travelers.
It’s yet to be seen whether the growth numbers for 2015 will be impacted by China’s yuan devaluation and volatile stock market. While experts have noted that the stock market doesn’t have a significant impact on the average middle-class Chinese consumer’s household wealth, the weaker yuan will make items more expensive abroad.
However, academy head Dai Bin stated that there’s much more room for growth in the coming years. “Overseas travel has not yet become a national trend,” he said, noting that only 5 percent of the Chinese population owns a passport.