The Chinese New Year holiday season is almost upon us, and that means the busiest travel time in the world—literally. The Chinese government has estimated that 3.6 billion trips will take place during the seven-day break period, and will almost assuredly result in traffic jams, packed train stations and airports, and sardine-like conditions at major tourist sites.
Many wealthy Chinese hoping to avoid these conditions are headed abroad for the holiday, and three new surveys recently published help to create a picture of where the upper-middle class and super-wealthy will be going in a few weeks and on other trips in the coming year. However, the surveys show a clear differentiation in preferences between various Chinese income levels.
For the upper-middle class, a recent Travelzoo Asia-Pacific survey found that Japan is a top travel destination, with 29 percent of respondents naming it as their first choice in an increase of 11 percent from last year. According to Wei Gu at Wall Street Journal, their main reason is affordable luxury shopping:
The weak yen has made Japan a new shopping paradise for deep-pocketed Chinese travelers. In 2013, the yen fell about 22% against the U.S. dollar, while the yuan appreciated almost 3% against the dollar.
During their trips to Japan, Chinese travelers have snapped up items from Louis Vuitton bags to $1,000 rice cookers, according to Vivian Hong, president of Travelzoo’s China operation, Travelzoo Lv You Zu.
The survey covered more than 3,400 subscribers. It did not specify income, but Travelzoo subscribers from China tend to make a household income of $50,000 and up.
Second on the list was the United States, which shot up from fifth place last year, followed by Taiwan and New Zealand. According to the report, campus visits to American universities are causing Chinese travelers to opt for an American vacation rather than going to Australia, which dropped from first last year down to seventh this year. Meanwhile, loosened travel restrictions have allowed Taiwan to move up to third, while New Zealand’s intense marketing efforts to potential Chinese visitors have earned it a rise to fourth place. Thailand’s shaky political situation has probably been a factor in its drop from third to fifth, while the Maldives also saw a drop because “many in China feel the nine-hour journey is too long for a beach holiday,” said the report.
However, Chinese millionaires have quite different travel preferences, according to a survey released yesterday by the Hurun Report. Questioning only high-net-worth individuals, the study found that Australia topped the list of favorite international destinations, knocking last year’s leader Paris into second place for the first time in four years. The United States is likely going more mass—despite its number one ranking by Travelzoo, it dropped down to sixth place for Hurun.
Since Australia has dropped down on the middle-range list, this implies it is attracting more upscale visitors. Meanwhile, Dubai, global playground for the wealthy, jumped from eighth to third place. The Maldives received one spot higher than on the Travelzoo survey in fifth place, implying this location might be getting more expensive as well. Domestically, Chinese millionaires prefer Sanya on the island of Hainan as their top choice and Hong Kong as their second.
Meanwhile, another recent survey by online travel booking site Ctrip of more than 3,000 respondents did not specify income, but was likely made up of a middle-class group. Like the millionaires, this group also chose Sanya as its top destination, and Hong Kong and Macau combined as the top “foreign” destination. This survey may have been compiled slightly earlier than the other two surveys, as Thailand was first on the foreign list, likely maintaining a top spot before political troubles caused it to fall on Travelzoo’s list. Similarly to Travelzoo, Taiwan was third, but Japan came in at fourth. Meanwhile, South Korea, which did not make either the Travelzoo or Hurun lists, was fifth.
Here is the full list of foreign destinations. In order from the highest to lowest percentage, they include: Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Europe, the Maldives, Australia, the United States, and Mauritius.
The full list of domestic destinations, in order from highest to lowest, include Sanya (Hainan), Lijiang (Yunnan), Jiuzhaigou (Sichuan), Tibet, Xiamen (Fujian), Guilin (Guangxi), Chengdu (Sichuan), Xinjiang, Xi’an, and Harbin.