Overseas-bound tourists from China hit a record 83 million last year and travel agencies expect the number to soar to 94 million in 2013—the most external travel by any country—as tourism operators world-wide explore options to accommodate their tastes.
Rich Chinese tourists prefer Shangri-La hotel chain and they love shopping—they mainly clamour for high-end French brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel and Cartier. The Hong Kong Chinese-owned Shangri-La with five-star lodgings has top-end market hotels in Middle East, North America, Oceania and Europe.
The China Daily newspaper last month observed that Chinese travellers spend US$85 billion in outbound trips in countries which catered for their preferences—reading, tea-tasting, driving and spending time with family, in that order.
Tourist numbers to the islands region are minimal with only Fiji noting a significant rise in arrivals over the last decade since China carved a reputation to become a world economic superpower—the second largest economy behind the United States.
Just five years ago—only 4,087 Chinese nationals, a minute 0.8% of total arrivals, called into Fiji but that number soared to 25,000 last year.
It follows special deals and initiatives by Air Pacific, now Fiji Airways, to fly into Hong Kong and the Papua New Guinea-based Bank of South Pacific linking their debit card with China’s UnionPay, which has customers exceeding 3.1 billion customers. Chinese tourists now also enjoy on-arrival visas. UnionPay is China’s biggest international debit card agency with recent dealings extending to Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.
Just as ethnic Chinese-owned businesses are on the rise around the islands region, so too are those seeking permanent residency. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa have ethnic minorities of Chinese descent among their populace. Some estimates have put 80,000 “overseas Chinese” in the islands region with around 20,000 each in Fiji and PNG.
Increasing export-import trade and new Sino investments in Vanuatu and PNG have attracted Chinese to prolong their stay in the two countries in recent years. A report out in June points out that there are 600 billionaires in China and 2.8 millionaires—all supposedly driving the outbound travel markets from the mainland and Hong Kong. If the islands regional tourist operators do not tap into the mega-rich Chinese tourist market, the region will miss out on the world’s big spenders.
Unlike the islands countries, Australia through intensive campaigns has managed to woo Chinese tourists in droves. It has noticed a rapid growth in tourist arrivals from China in the last four years, when the numbers from recession-hit United States and Europe began to drop. Arrivals this year indicate that the Chinese have surpassed the British in terms of arrivals of holidaymakers in Australia.
New Zealand had implemented a very focused strategy to attract very affluent Chinese tourists that paid off: in 2013, New Zealand has been voted ” World’s Best luxury destination” by the influential Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a luxury travel magazine for Chinese High Net Worth travelers.
Ethnic Chinese living in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan who chose to holiday abroad last month accounted for nearly half of the tourists into Australia. Asian tourists who visit Australia often also choose one of the islands destinations as a secondary part of their itineraries.
But the Chinese tourists need to be convinced that they get what they expect from their holiday spots. Costs and currency exchange value are not so much an impediment to Chinese travellers, as announced by Tourism Research Australia chief economist, Leo Jago.
He declared that Australia noticed a five percent annual increase. “Results like these are clear indications of the ongoing growth of the Asian market and continuing recovery of some of the traditional markets,” he said in a statement.
For Australia, the biggest growth comes from China, with visitor numbers increasing by 17 percent, followed by Singapore 13 percent, Malaysia and Taiwan 12 percent, and the United States and India seven percent. A study on social habits of the luxury Chinese travellers reiterated that France(because of its designer brand names), US, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and Italy have all become popular holiday stops for the Chinese.
Known for the region’s eco-tourism, adventures and nature appeals like waterfalls and reserves, Vanuatu has failed to lure Chinese in as many numbers as it would have liked to. The same can be said about PNG, which armed with a new Tourism Promotion Authority and an expensive national budget strategy, has only seen a rise in tourist numbers from Australia, North America and Japan because of its appeal for Kokoda Track.
Chinese consumers have become increasingly affluent on the back of an economic boom and foreign holidays are ever more popular, with shopping a key activity. There have been suggestions that the rapid expansion in China’s middle class will no doubt see this trend continue for years to come in the near future.