A beach in Thailand, a popular destination for Chinese tourists. (Flickr/Jens-Petter Salvesen)
In case there was any doubt that Chinese tourists will be the largest driving force in the global travel industry in the years to come, a new report on the future of the global travel market should lay these thoughts to rest. According to research by consultancy Amadeus IT Holding SA, Chinese tourists alone will take up a projected 20 percent of all global outbound travel expenditure by 2023.
Coming from just 1 percent of all total spending as recent as 2005, the growth has been spectacular. The report, which was commissioned by Oxford Economics, estimates that China is currently in second place for total global expenditure and will surpass the United States this year for the top spot. This assessment differs slightly from that of the UN World Tourism Organization, which reported last year that China became the world’s largest outbound tourism market in terms of spending in 2012.
The report’s forecast is based on expectations of consumer spending, employment, and overall GDP growth. In addition, it states that “China’s boom is also underpinned by a unique cultural and behavioral shift, whereby a new and very large generation of Chinese individuals is expanding its overseas business interests and engaging in cross-border tourism in a manner unprecedented in previous generations.”
In 2013, Chinese global expenditure on travel took up about 8 percent of the world total, and will reach about 15 percent by 2014, according to the report. It also estimates that the number of people in China with high enough incomes to travel abroad will reach 220 million by 2023. According to the Tourist Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 97 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad last year, and brokerage firm CLSA believes the number will hit 200 million by 2020.
For hoteliers and retailers hoping to cash in on the Chinese travel boom, it’s also important not to forget the tourists staying in the country—the report estimates that China will become the world’s largest domestic market by 2017.