J. Walter Thompson Intelligence’s Innovation Group APAC’s new report ‘China Outbound: The New Face of Chinese Global Travel’ uncovers a number of surprising new trends about the world’s fastest-growing group of outbound travellers. It identifies emerging traveller types, growth sectors, and includes Case Studies of how companies and destinations are adapting to attract this new wave of outbound Chinese tourists.
International travel by Chinese nationals is increasing exponentially, from just 10.5 million outbound travellers in 2000 to 130 million in 2017. Asian-based investment firm CLSA predicts over 200 million Chinese will travel abroad annually by 2020. According to a joint report by online travel agency Ctrip and China Tourism Academy, the most popular destinations were Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the Maldives.
But the emerging habits and tastes of Chinese outbound travellers are a far cry from the flag-led coach party stereotypes typically associated with this cohort. Broadly speaking, China’s travelers are increasingly seeking something they can’t find back home - this could be food, culture, spirituality, nature, adventure or even love - yet still want the conveniences of home such as language and familiar payment systems.
The report is based on the Innovation Group’s survey of 1,500 adult travellers from 16 cities across China conducted in March 2018. It has identified 12 emerging traveller types including:
• Foodie travellers (48% have been, 41% interested)
While Chinese tourists once stuck to the predictability of Chinese restaurants while abroad, they are now more likely to enjoy local cuisines, whether it’s sushi in Japan, oysters in New Zealand, crispy duck in Bali or durian in Malaysia. For an increasing number of Chinese travellers, local delicacies have become something to be sought out rather than studiously avoided.
• Wander women (34% of women have been, 41% interested)
Young, upwardly mobile women are increasingly putting off marriage to focus on their careers. These students and professionals are working hard and also playing hard, which includes traveling abroad with girlfriends or solo.
• Looking for love (21% have been, 29% interested)
Some are looking for a fling or a life partner. Others are interested in gay-friendly destinations such as Thailand to express themselves in a way they cannot back home, or to get hitched in a country where gay marriage is legal.
• Medical tourists (15% have been, 31% interested)
China’s middle class is more health conscious than ever before, yet grapples with overcrowded public hospitals and brusque doctors at home. Those who can afford it are seeking treatment elsewhere, from aesthetic surgery in Taiwan, Korea and Thailand, to cancer screening in Japan. Some insurance plans now cover overseas treatment.
And these emerging traveller types are obviously driving growth sectors including medical tourism and love tourism, with savvy operators and destinations already tapping into these developing trends. Apart from identifying the emerging sectors, the report also contains Case Studies outlining the different ways in which China’s outbound travellers’ needs are being met with operators’ offering options that cater to both their search for the different, while couched in the security of the familiar. Examples include:
• How Finland transformed itself from transit-hub to tourist destination by tapping into China’s preference for cash-free payment.
Chinese tourist spending in greater Helsinki reached 214 million euros in 2016, according to the Finnish market research company TAK. Overnight stays from the greater China region in Finland rose 33 percent in 2017 from the year before, according to Visit Finland. One big reason was Finland’s embrace of Ant Financial’s Alipay mobile payment app for everything from taxi rides to food to husky sled excursions.
• How Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Hawaii is embracing China’s increasing demand for destination weddings.
Chinese visitors may be a relatively small percentage of total visitors at the resort, but they spend an average $340 a day over and above room costs, almost double that of Japanese guests. There’s a Chinese website and hotel staff can be contacted in Chinese and will respond within two minutes, via WeChat.
“We embarked on this study with a view to finding opportunities for destinations, operators and brands looking to tap into China’s burgeoning numbers of outbound travellers. But the insights we’ve unearthed go far deeper than just ‘consumers’. Respondents’ embarrassment at being pre-judged as ‘ugly tourists’ and their very real fears of terrorism are just some of the revealing human insights that make this one of, if not the, most qualitative in-depth studies into this segment,” commented John Gutteridge, CEO J. Walter Thompson Company APAC.
“While the flag-waving Chinese tour leader is still a common sight, the truth is that a growing segment of outbound Chinese are now travelling independently to increasingly far-flung locations,” said Chen May Yee, APAC Director for the Innovation Group. “Singles, younger generations, and those from smaller cities are travelling, making this cohort a powerful, and moving, target.”
More information and the full report are available here.