Mandarin Oriental's resort in Sanya, Hainan. Hainan is the top domestic travel destination for Chinese tourists this year. (Mandarin Oriental)
China’s booming travel industry is only set to get bigger this year as travelers take more trips and spend more money on them, according to the results of a new report. A survey of more than 3,000 respondents from more than 30 Chinese cities conducted by online travel site Ctrip took a comprehensive look at travelers’ plans for 2014, including where they’re going, how much they’re spending, and how they’re booking.
More than half the respondents stated that they plan to take three or more trips this year, with 11 percent answering that the total will be five or more. According to Ctrip, the average number of planned trips has gone up from last year’s survey. This growth complements statistics recently released by the Tourist Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which states that outbound Chinese tourists numbers grew to 97 million in 2013, and will exceed 100 million in 2014.
These travelers are not only going to be traveling more, but also spending more on their trips in 2014. More than half of the participants (56 percent) said their travel budget is going to go up for the coming year. Meanwhile, 39 percent said it will stay the same, and only 5 percent said it will decrease. When it comes to actual amounts spent, 34 percent will be spending RMB10,000 (US$1,655) or more on travel for the entire year, with 22 percent planning to spend RMB10,000 to 20,000 ($3,310), 10 percent planning to spend RMB20,000 to 50,000 ($8,276), and 1 percent planning on spending above RMB50,000.
The majority of survey participants clearly want to avoid the traffic jams and elbow-to-elbow crowds of Golden Week travel madness. While 18 percent of those surveyed said they plan to travel during the fall seven-day Golden Week and an equal number said they would for Chinese New Year, many more opted for other holidays. Eighty percent of travelers said they plan to travel during paid vacation leave times, while 36 percent said they would travel on weekends, and 27 percent said they would go on small national holidays such as the Qingming or Dragon Boat Festivals (the answers weren’t mutually exclusive, meaning many will travel for combinations of these holidays). Travelers taking trips outside the peak travel times are able to avoid not only massive crowds, but also high prices. Nonetheless, Chinese officials expect 3.6 billion trips will be taken during the Chinese New Year travel period, which shows just how massive the total number of trips for all travel will be this year.
For desired destinations, Sanya on the tropical island of Hainan topped the list at 36 percent, while Lijiang in Yunnan and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan were close behind at 34 percent and 32 percent, respectively. In descending order, Tibet, Xiamen, Guilin, Chengdu, Xinjiang, Xi’an, and Harbin rounded out the list. Thailand (34 percent), Hong Kong and Macau (32 percent), and Taiwan (31 percent) topped the list of favorite non-mainland destinations, followed by Japan, South Korea, Europe, the Maldives, Australia, the United States, and Mauritius. In reality, Thailand’s place may shift dramatically for the coming year now that many Chinese tourists are avoiding the location due to the country’s massive protests.
A growing number of tourists are steering clear of group travel, according to the survey, which found that 39 percent will have a self-organized trip. Meanwhile, 42 percent will travel through an organized package, and 19 percent will join a tour group. Mobile bookings through a travel website went up dramatically: according to the survey, 39 percent said they would use a mobile app for booking, which was 10 times higher than last year’s survey. In addition, 93 percent said they would use online booking,—a number which may need to be taken with a grain of salt considering the fact that Ctrip administered the survey—45 percent said they would book by phone, and 17 percent said they would go through an agency. An earlier survey by Hotels.com this August also found that independent Chinese travelers are on the rise.