It’s no secret by now that China has the biggest outbound tourism industry in the world. Which makes sense, since it also has the biggest population. Coupling this with a growing economy, a people with an increasing amount of disposable income, and a reverence for new experiences puts us where we are today. Projections show that by the end of 2014, around 110 million Chinese people will have travelled abroad in the calendar year, each spending around $1,000 a day — a massive $155 billion spent in total. (Infographic)
Chinese spending abroad is escalating at such a rate that some reports suggest that their luxury spending by the end of 2015 will surpass that of every other nation… combined.
This sounds great, but why should you care? How is this going to affect what you do? I can’t say it better than Forbes contributor Ed Fuller did in this article on the coming wave of Chinese tourists:
Some of you may be wondering why you should care about this. You should because, in the not too distant future, vast numbers of Chinese visitors will very likely be coming to a town near you and they will have a huge impact on the world around you.
With those kinds of numbers, the impact will be felt far and wide. It is inescapable. So why not embrace it and make the most of it? Here are a few more reasons why you should care:
The most obvious reason is the financial benefit one can reap from being suitably prepared for the arrival of Chinese tourists. There have been several reports recently illuminating things that Chinese tourists wish to see more of when traveling abroad. Things like Chinese websites, Chinese language TV channels in hotel rooms, UnionPay system-enabled ATMs, etc. If you can find a way to cater for their needs and wants, then you can skip the queue, so to speak, of those waiting to cash in.
The Chinese tourism industry, and in fact society as a whole, is moving online quicker than you can say digital revolution. With every passing year more and more bookings are done online and through mobile apps. As millennials grow up and assume the mantle as leaders of the industry we see an acceleration in the digitalisation of tourism that means one can no longer afford not to meet them online.
Passing the Torch
Chinese society is evolving quicker than anyone could have imagined. China’s millennials, who account for 54 percent of outbound tourists, are different to their predecessors. They have had more exposure to the world. Their parents want to see the Eiffel Tower, they want to see Chichén Itzá. Their parents want to lay on the beach in Phuket, they want to learn how to scuba dive in Koh Tao. Their parents want to buy handbags from Louis Vuitton, they want to buy a didgeridoo in the Outback. You get the point.
The most predictable thing about younger Chinese travelers is their unpredictability. They are open to new experiences, they are inquisitive and are willing to, nay they desire to, go to places that no one they know has been to. This opens up the market for receiving Chinese travelers considerably as it is no longer limited to the biggest and most popular sites in the world.
There is no denying that Chinese tourists have a rather poor image in other countries. They are often perceived as loud, littering, spitting visitors who leave only chaos in their wake. Their behaviour is changing rapidly, though the perception will take a little longer to change.
The government, along with other influential individuals, has worked hard to educate tourists about what is, and isn’t, acceptable abroad. The modern Chinese tourist is vastly more ‘civilised’ than the one from even a few years ago. There is still the odd unfortunate incident, such as when a Chinese teen defaced an ancient sculpture in Egypt, yet these are now the exception and not the rule. So hosting Chinese tourists is no longer the nightmare it was once perceived to be.
This is a very sensitive situation, however, as many of the things seen as unacceptable outside of China’s borders, is very much a part of culture within. So when we talk of ‘civilising’ the Chinese tourist, it refers more to learning about the norms of other cultures, rather than the ‘taming’ of their own – just as one would learn to adapt when visiting China. The Chinese have a saying, ru xiang sui su,which means ‘wherever you are, follow the local customs’ or as we’d say in English,when in Rome…
Too Big to Ignore
These are just a few of the reasons for you to sit up and pay attention to the travel revolution taking place in China. In the last few years a lot of predictions of have been made about the number of Chinese people who will travel outside of China this year, next year and by 2020. While it is impossible to know exactly, one thing that is for sure is that the number will be massive. If you are in the tourism industry, plan to be in the future, or just a casual observer of worldly trends then you should definitely keep your eye on the transformations taking place within this exploding demographic.