While China’s more than 100 million annual outbound travelers are reaching all corners of the globe, Chinese tourists’ favorite destinations remain easy to reach as Asian countries take up more than half of the top 10 most popular places they want to visit in 2015.
According to the results of a recent survey of 4,300 travelers across the Asia-Pacific region by online travel deal company Travelzoo Asia Pacific and consumer insights consulting firm WIMI, mainland Chinese travelers named Japan as the number one country they want to visit within the next year. As the top country on the list for the second year in a row, Japan joins five other Asia-based destinations on the top 10 list, including New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, and China.
“Backed by an insatiable appetite for discovery and a willingness to spend, the Chinese will certainly impact the global travel industry,” says Travelzoo Lv You Zu President Vivian Hong. “But it remains to be seen whether their destinations are prepared to appease their dynamic tastes and demands.”
Over the past two years, Japan has made a major comeback as a key destination for Chinese travelers after China’s 2012 anti-Japan riots caused massive boycotts of travel to the country. In the first 11 months of 2014, Japan saw 80 percent growth in the number of Chinese visitors, and is likely to remain a top location in the coming year as long as political tensions don’t re-escalate.
Taking a strong position on the Asia-centric list was also the United States, which came in as the second most desired travel destination for mainland Chinese tourists. The United States is likely to benefit in the future from the U.S.-China visa agreement signed at the APEC summit in November, which now allows Chinese visitors to obtain 10-year tourist and business visas.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia both benefited from extensive marketing toward Chinese tourists in recent years, jumping to third and fourth on the list, respectively. Thailand, however, dropped in rank as its political struggles caused worried Chinese tourists to stay away in 2014.
One significant addition to the list this year was China itself as the country develops its own extensive tourism infrastructure. The rapid development of tourist venues and entertainment across the country including resorts, theme parks, and duty-free shopping means that more Chinese tourists are placing a domestic vacation on par with an international trip when it comes to their top preferences.
This wish list is slightly different from the places Chinese tourists actually visit—South Korea was nowhere to be found among the top 10 destinations for 2014 and 2015, but was actually the number three destination for total Chinese visitors last year (after Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macau). The country benefits from a close proximity to China, ease in acquiring visas, extensive duty-free shopping options, and a Chinese obsession with Korean pop culture. Japan, meanwhile, came in fifth for total global Chinese tourist numbers, after fourth-place Thailand.
Chinese tourists are increasingly booking their travel on mobile devices, according to the survey, which found that 78 percent of mainland Chinese respondents made a mobile travel-related purchase over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, a stunning 97 percent of mainland Chinese travelers stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues over the duration of their trip—a number which is likely high thanks to the fact that many Chinese travelers often pick up lower-priced luxury goods and cosmetics for those back home in order to avoid tariffs. In addition, 77 percent of Chinese visitors are using their mobile devices to find out about restaurants while traveling.
The survey also tracked Chinese travelers’ extensive use of mobile devices for photos and selfies, which remain extremely popular with Asian tourists. It found that 40 percent of all Asian travelers take selfies on their trips, while 69 percent of mainland Chinese travelers use photo editing apps. While the top reason for all Asian tourists for taking selfies was simply to avoid asking someone else taking their picture, Chinese tourists also noted they enjoyed taking them to share on social media (34 percent) and because they feel they look better in selfies (26 percent).
“Buoyed by the Chinese’s preference to supplant traditional travel agents with internet channels, information technology is impacting the travel industry. Easy access to the information via smartphones is also altering travelers’ behaviors during their vacations,” said WIMI Managing Partner Darryl Andrew. “This is especially noticeable among Travelzoo Asia Pacific mainland Chinese members, with a majority using their mobiles to find the best deals for a local attraction or recommendation for a good restaurant while at a destination.”