Maldives vacations tops Chinese tourists’ whish list

Chinese tourists in maldives China Elite Focus

On the last day of her holiday in the Maldives, Zang Kun and five fellow travellers from China splurge on imported tofu at the newly opened Beijing Restaurant near the white-sand beach on the island of Hulhumale.
Zang travelled to the remote Indian Ocean destination in search of a quiet place to rest, far from China’s hectic tourist spots.
“I couldn’t stand the idea of going to Sanya or Beidaihe , it’s too crowded and expensive,” she said. “The cost of vacationing in China is going up. There is less of a difference to going abroad now. And I don’t need a visa here.”
Zang is one of the 400,000-plus Chinese expected to visit the Maldives this year, according to its Ministry of Tourism. Last year, the number of Chinese tourists exceeded the Maldivian indigenous population for the first time. Some 363,000 Chinese visited the tiny nation, 9.7 per cent more than in 2013 and 24 times more than a decade earlier.

And even more are coming. A report by investment group CLSA released on Tuesday found that while only 2 per cent of mainland holidaymakers had been to the Maldives, the archipelago was top of their wish list. It is the top choice among Chinese travellers for overseas weddings and honeymoons. “Destination weddings are becoming a trend [among Chinese], with the Maldives the No 1 hotspot for wedding shoots and honeymoons,” the report said.

Thanks to direct flights, free visas on arrival and a reputation for pristine beaches and refined resorts, Chinese visitors have been the largest group of tourists in the Maldives since 2010.
“It was like a happy accident. The recession happened and there were rooms to fill,” said Mifzal Ahmed, director for strategy and business development at Mega Maldives Airlines, a private carrier that caters almost exclusively to Chinese tourists.
“The Maldives is the Gucci handbag of holidays,” he said. “People want to have a better answer if friends ask them ‘what will you do during Chinese New Year?'”
The airline, the brainchild of Beijing-based American entrepreneur George Weinmann, was the first to offer direct flights from China to the archipelago. In 2011, it began flying scheduled charter flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Weinmann said he was still waiting for permits but flights to Xian and Changsha should start around the Lunar New Year.
Weinmann said he expected many more to visit from China in the coming years. “The Maldives now has 1.2 million tourists in total. Imagine when we will have 1.2 million Chinese coming here [per year],” he said. “The question then will be how to deal with those numbers.”
In a commentary last week on the local news website Minivan News, Ahmed said the country’s tourism industry was still struggling to cater to Chinese customers. “It’s about time we put our prejudices aside and learned to love them back,” he wrote.
Chinese have developed a reputation as unusual tourists, dreading the sun and spending little during their stays. About one-third of Chinese visitors spend more than US$5,000 during their stay there, according to a 2013 survey, compared with two-thirds of Russians and Britons.
When one resort removed a kettle from the rooms of Chinese visitors in 2013 to discourage consumption of cup noodles, it set off a hail of outrage on Chinese microblogs.
“They often go half-board and then take items from the [breakfast] buffet to eat for lunch,” said Mohamed Adam, director at the state-run Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation.
But Maldivian resorts had adapted to Chinese demands, Adam said. “All 55 five-star hotels now have Chinese staff,” he said. “You’ll find noodles and even rice [for breakfast].”
Souvenir shops and some restaurants increasingly accept payments in yuan along with the local currency, the rufiyaa, and US dollars.

Source: South China Morning Post, article by Patrick Boehler

Costa Rica new Consulate in Shanghai will boost Chinese tourism

Costa Rica tourism

Costa Rican hotel and tourist operators may have to start learning Mandarin if President Luis Guillermo Solís’ administration makes good on a goal to court more Chinese tourists. Solís made the statement during his trip to Beijing.

The president, who met with Li Jinzao, director of the China National Tourism Administration, said that tourism is one of the strategic priorities of the two countries’ relationship. Solís said Costa Rica would work with the Chinese government to establish a direct flight from China to Costa Rica and announced the opening of a new consulate in Shanghai.

Costa Rica plans to work with China to improve the number of Mandarin speakers at Costa Rican tourist outfits and extend an invitation to Chinese tourism businesses to participate in the next EXPOTUR trade show in early May, according to the statement from Casa Presidencial.

Foreign Minister Manuel González said the new consulate will help expand the country’s image as a tourist destination and diversify the mix of countries that sent 2.4 million tourists to Costa Rica in 2013. Costa Rica’s travel sector was hard-hit by its strong dependence on U.S. tourists during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

According to Pierre Gervois, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine,” We have worked with the Costa Rica Embassy in China since 2013 to define the best way to attract High Net Worth Chinese travelers to this beautiful country. Costa Rica has amazing experiences to offer for discerning Chinese tourists.”

Increasing purchasing power and fewer travel restrictions have made Chinese travelers one of the most coveted demographics for tourist destinations. China has become the world’s largest source of international tourists, who spent $129 billion on travel in 2013, according to the World Tourism Organization. But Costa Rica has yet to tap into this market. In 2014, only 6,734 Chinese tourists flew into Juan Santamaría International Airport, according to figures from the Immigration Administration.

Chinese tourists require visas prior to their arrival in Costa Rica, but this process is less intensive now than in years past, said Andrea Quesada, press spokeswoman at the Immigration Administration.

Indian government to hold programmes in China to attract Chinese tourists


India will organise a series of special events across China in 2015 as part of ‘Visit India Year’ programme to introduce its picturesque spots to Chinese tourists, who form a major chunk of global travellers.
There is a deep interest about India in China, but the number of Chinese visiting the country is minuscule, said India’s Ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha.
And the number of Indians travelling to China is also not up to the potential, Kantha told Communist Party’s official organ People’s Daily in an interview.
“Recognising this, we will be launching the ‘Visit India Year’ in China and the embassy of India in China is planning to hold a series of activities, not only in Beijing but also in different parts of China, to introduce India to our Chinese friends and promote tourism from China to India,” he said.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the volume of international trips by Chinese travellers has grown from 10 million in 2000 to 83 million in 2012.
Their expenditure abroad has also climbed rapidly, increasing by 40 per cent from 2011 to 2012.
While 2015 will be the ‘Visit India Year’ in China, next year will be ‘Visit China Year’ as part of an understanding between the two countries reached during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India last year.
India has been making dedicated efforts to attract Chinese tourists as their numbers reached close to 100 million last year and raked up a revenue of $102 billion. Officials say visa policy has been liberalised to facilitate more visits.
Currently over five lakh Indians, mostly businessmen, visit China while nearly one lakh Chinese travel to India.
China has been promoting tourists from the country to visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In 2013, over 30 per cent of the million tourists in Maldives were stated to be Chinese.
Kantha, however, said India-China ties progressed in all spheres last year.
“When I look back at the year that has just gone by, I do feel a sense of satisfaction. I am also encouraged by these accomplishments to plan ahead for an even more successful year in 2015. We expect Prime Minister Modi to visit China this year,” he said.
He said 2014 was the ‘Year of Friendly Exchanges’ during which relationships enriched by a series of high-level visits which included Vice President Hamid Ansari’s trip to China followed by Xi’s India visit.
Kantha said Xi’s visit to India was a “high watermark for our engagement and took our exchanges to a new trajectory of cooperation.”
The Narendra Modi government has accorded the highest priority to bilateral relations.
“In fact, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have already met three times in the last six months, and PM Modi has also met with Premier Li Keqiang in Myanmar,” said Kantha.
“We have strengthened our relationship in all areas, including at the political, economic and cultural levels. Our two countries have added new substance to our strategic and cooperative partnership.”
He said the two countries are also looking at broad-basing our economic partnership and are encouraging two-way flows of investments.
Several new areas of cooperation emerged during President Xi’s visit to India, including in railways and industrial parks.
“We have agreed on several other initiatives such as cooperation in the fields of smart cities, space, and civil nuclear energy. We have enhanced exchanges in the defence field at all levels. We have successfully concluded the ‘Hand-in-hand’ joint counter-terrorism exercises in November (2014),” he said.
“We would like to utilise the synergies that exist between our two countries. Chinese companies have comparative advantage in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing.”
Referring to the planned investments of $20 billion in two Chinese industrial parks being set up in India, Katha said: “In India, the government believes that infrastructure and manufacturing have to be the major focus for the country to develop.”
He said Chinese companies should make use of the ‘Make in India’ campaign and invest there “both for our large domestic market and for exports, thus resulting in a win-win situation for both our countries.”
He said India also successfully held ‘Glimpses of India Festival’ in 14 cities of China.
Besides, India and China are also cooperating with each other in the multilateral context.
“One example I can give you in this regard is the decision to establish the BRICS-led New Development Bank,” he said.

New Five year multiple entry visas for Chinese travelers going to Japan


Since January 19, the Japanese government has extended the validity of multiple-entry visas for Chinese tourists from three to five years. The tourists will also have unrestricted travel throughout Japan.
The move aims to attract more Chinese visitors, who are playing an increasingly important role in bolstering consumer spending and economic growth in Japan.
Hitomi Takahashi is the manager of a sales division at the branch of the Japanese cosmetic maker Shiseido company at the luxurious shopping district in central Tokyo Ginza.
She says:
“This shopping street brings together visitors from across the world and Chinese consumers account for more than 70 percent of them. We have Chinese salespeople in our shop and we also have several Chinese interpreters so that we can communicate with Chinese tourists.”
The yen’s slump to a seven-year low against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is also broadening the country’s appeal globally.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry estimates that some 2.2 million Chinese visited Japan in the first 10 months of 2014, contributing more than a third of the total spending by foreign tourists.
According to the Japanese Tourism Agency, the average Chinese tourist spent about 2,000 U.S. dollars last year, more than three times as much as visitors of other nationalities. But according to the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine the average spending of an affluent Chinese visitor to Japan would be closer to 18,000 U.S. dollars. According to Pierre Gervois, Publisher “We know that a lot of luxury goods bought by Chinese tourists in Japan are paid in cash, and the real spending figures are always higher that the official statistics”
Chinese tourists said the main appeal of Japanese products is their perceived superior quality and lower prices.
“I came to buy some electronics, including cameras and cellphones, and also clothes, items for daily use and cosmetic products because the exchange rate has dropped recently. Some of my friends go to school here and they often go back to China with bags of purchases. I think maybe the reason that people come here to buy is that prices in our country are higher.”
The Japanese government plans to further expand the range of goods exempt from consumption tax for foreign tourists, possibly to include cosmetics, food and alcoholic beverages in the next fiscal year. Analysts believe the move is likely to lure more foreign nationals and help buoy the recession-bit economy.

Thailand tourism industry is counting on Chinese tourists for 2015

Chinese tourists thailand

Political unrest kept tourists away from Thailand for much of 2014, but a surge in Chinese tourists in december 2014 may signal a recovery next year, analysts say.
“Thailand’s tourism sector, which was a key growth driver before the most recent political crisis, finally looks to be on the mend, and should add much-needed support to the economy going into 2015,” Capital Economics said in a note last week.
Visitor arrivals were down 12 percent on year from January through September, data from Thailand’s Department of Tourism show, weighed by protests and outbreaks of violence in the first half of the year and caution among travelers thereafter.
Nearly a year ago, the government had forecast 2014 GDP growth of 4.0-5.0 percent, but the impact of the political crisis and weak imports saw government officials cut their forecasts. In December, Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said the economy may expand less than 1 percent this year.

But Thailand’s tourism sector appears to be turning a corner. Visitor arrivals increased 4.2 percent on year over the October-November period, led by a surge in Chinese tourists.
“The rebound in Chinese tourists is significant as they have become increasingly important to Thailand’s tourism performance in recent years, Capital Economics said. Chinese tourists accounted for 17 percent of foreign visitors in 2013.
“Chinese visitors are also among the biggest spenders, with per capita spending per day about 10 percent higher than the overall average,” it added.
“To stimulate tourist arrivals, Thailand launched a visa-fee waiver scheme for China and Taiwan passport holders from 9 August to 8 November. Despite the end of Thailand’s fee-waiver period, Chinese tourist arrivals in Thailand rose 2.5 percent on month to a record 513,441 in November,” CIMB said in a note last week.
“We expect Chinese tourist arrivals in the region to continue recovering as political stability returns to Thailand,” CIMB said.
“European visitors spend even more than Chinese tourists during their visits on a per capita basis, largely reflecting their considerably longer stays in Thailand. But with European economies struggling, the performance of this sub-sector is likely to be lackluster,” it said.

“Based on our estimate, a 40 percent fall in Russian tourist arrivals would reduce total arrivals by just 2.5 percent,” it said. “We believe growth from China can more than offset the fall in tourists from Russia.”
Citigroup agrees: “Russia’s economic difficulties, including a depreciating ruble, will negatively affect Russian visitation to Thailand… [but] upside from Chinese tourist arrivals should more than compensate,” it said in a note last week.
Thailand’s tourism sector will likely become a growth engine again in 2015 after being a drag this year, Capital Economics said.
“If tourist arrivals reach the Tourism Minister’s forecast of 29 million in 2015, up from about 25 million this year, GDP growth would receive a boost of about 1.6 percentage points,” it said.

Source: CNBC, article by John Phillips

South Korea Plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to Chinese patients


Cosmetic surgery, pervasive in South Korea, is now the must-do activity for many Chinese visitors.
The lights stay on all night in the Gangnam district, where plastic surgery clinics line the streets. Signs in Chinese beckon visitors. Once they are inside, translators stand ready.
Seizing an opportunity to tap the steady and ubiquitous flow of China’s newly rich who are traveling overseas, South Korea’s government is promoting the country as a place to shop, eat, stay — and perhaps get a nip and a tuck.
And the Chinese, mainly women, are visiting in droves for body modifications, from the minor, like double eyelid surgery, to the extreme, like facial restructuring. While plastic surgery is common in China, South Korean hospitals are perceived to be safer and more hygienic, albeit pricier.
“When the Chinese come to the stores, they empty them,” said Kim Soo-jin, a representative at the medical tourism unit of the Korean tourism office. “If we can turn them into medical tourists, they are more likely to stay longer. They will eat one more meal, buy one more thing and go to another site.”
The South Korean government is setting aside as much as $4 million a year to help promote the medical tourism industry, which is dominated by plastic surgeons. It expects one million medical tourists a year by 2020, up from 211,218 last year, with Chinese travelers representing the largest segment.
Tour operators sell travel deals that include shopping, sightseeing and plastic surgery. Premier packages include a stretch limo for the ride from the hotel to the clinic. Licensed brokers take a cut of the total surgery costs, up to 35 percent.
While prices for tourists vary widely, a basic double eyelid surgery can cost more than $900. A plastic surgery trip, with hotel and other activities, can run around $15,000. In general, it is more expensive than in China.
“I’ve seen them coming in with bags of money,” said Dr. Ro Young-woo, a founding partner of a South Korean franchise chain of clinics called Oracle Clinic.
Popular culture has had an influence. Korean television shows and movies are wildly successful in China. Patients often take magazine photos to their consultations.
“We see more assertiveness in Chinese patients than Korean patients,” Dr. Kim Eung-sam, a plastic surgeon and director at the Hershe clinic in Seoul. “They want to look like certain Korean celebrities.”
During their trip, Ms. Liu, Ms. Wu and Ms. Jin planned to see the sights featured in their favorite Korean TV show, “My Love From the Star.” They bought clothes like those worn by the show’s female star, Jeon Ji-hyun. Ms. Jin asked for the same nose as another famous Korean actress, Han Ga-in.
South Korea is building on a tradition of cosmetic surgery. A recent study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimated that South Korea had the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita of any country in the world. Seoul TouchUp, a government-approved medical tourism agency, states in its marketing materials that “Korean women are arguably more objectified by their male counterparts than any other women in the world.”
“In terms of advertising it’s very much exaggerated,” says Dr. Cha Sang-myun, the chairman of the Korean Association of Plastic Surgeons, which is calling for tighter industry regulations. “You see it everywhere: on the subways, on the buses and even in the movie theaters.”
Some Korean doctors are voicing concern. The flood of demand has spawned a cluster of unlicensed hospitals, brokers and unqualified doctors, according to Dr. Cha of the plastic surgeon association. “If there are 10 plastic surgeons out there, there are another 100 who are not qualified,” he said.
And the procedures that many Chinese tourists seek come with the highest rate of complications. Some undergo several procedures at once. Dr. Kim at Braun described how one recent patient booked a series of surgeries — double jaw, facial contour, nose job, double eyelid, liposuction and a fat graft.
One of the most popular procedures is facial contouring, which involves altering the shape of the face by shaving and removing bone from the cheeks, jaw and chin. Double jaw surgery is a more radical and popular version that requires realigning the top and bottom jaws.
Chinese patients undergo these painful surgeries to alter their faces into a V-shape, giving them highly coveted delicate features. They are also popular among Korean men and women.
“I think they have gone totally overboard,” said Dr. Walter Peters, a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto. Radical jaw surgery in the United States and Canada, he added, “could sometimes be done for cosmetic reasons but it is usually done for developmental or post-traumatic reasons.”
Ms. Jin had already had her nose done once in China. “The more I do it, the more I become interested in it,” she said.
“Many friends around me have gone under the knife,” she added. “Since my friends have become more beautiful, I think I should become more beautiful.”

Source: The New York Times, article by Su- Hyun Lee