Could Asia become overly dependent on Chinese tourists?

Chinese-tourist-in-ThailandChinese tourism is changing the world’s tourism map. The biggest tourism destinations are looking to attract Chinese tourists, with new locations becoming more popular as Chinese visitors decide the best places to visit. As other Asian cities attract more Chinese tourists, experts are concerned that the economies in these destinations are becoming too reliant on Chinese travel.

The figures in the annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index have always seen some fluctuations, but recent years have introduced a defining variable into the mix: Chinese tourists.

China’s emerging middle class and growing numbers of increasingly affluent travellers have created a new tourism market. The big winners in terms of increased Chinese tourism have been some of the biggest cities in Asia. In fact, the recent report shows that the top ten fastest growing cities include cities from most regions of the world, excluding Western Europe and North America.

The report ranks the world’s 132 most popular cities in terms of international visitor numbers and spending. London is still controlling the top spot, but big Asian cities are climbing up in the rankings.
Over 13% of the visitors to these Asia-Pacific destinations were Chinese tourists, the largest foreign tourist group in the region. Five years ago, the figure was only around 6%.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that Chinese visitors to the country stood at 4.6 million in 2014. By the end of this year, authorities expect the arrivals to increase by almost 40%.
An increase in Chinese tourism has not meant only an increase in pure visitor numbers, but also surge in the revenue the cities are able to attract from tourism. Bangkok, the Thai city ranking on the top spot in Asia-Pacific destinations, has visitor spending of $12.4 billion. The city is currently growing its visitor spending the fastest, with 11.8% growth between 2014 and 2015.

New Zealand, following a targeted promotional and media campaign made with China Elite Focus in partnership with the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine from 2011 to 2013, achieved remarkable results with affluent Chinese travelers arriving at Auckland Airport, and flying in premium cabins. “New Zealand is now seen by China’s elite travelers as the premium destination in Asia-Pacific”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus. “We have worked extremely well with Auckland Airport to create the Luxury New Zealand campaign and change the perception of New Zealand in order to attract more sophisticated and wealthy Chinese travelers”.

While Chinese tourism can greatly enhance the economies of these Asian cities, there is growing concern that some of the cities might become too reliant on Chinese tourism.
 
Eric Schneider, Group Head at MasterCard Advisors of the Asia Pacific Region, told gbtimes that tourism bodies must look to appeal a broader audience to guarantee ‘long term resilience’. “You must always be cautious not to put all your eggs in one basket,” Schneider said.
But China’s outbound tourism has still much more room to grow. According to Schneider, around 5% of Chinese citizens currently have passports. In a country with population of 1.357 billion, the potential for more outbound tourism is incredible. “It is inevitable that, as the Chinese middle class grows and begins to travel more often, they make up a bigger proportion of tourists to cities around the world,” Schneider pointed out.

It is certain that the power of Chinese tourists will continue to grow in importance in the coming years. For Asian cities, as well as for other big world cities, it is essential to maintain a diversified economy – not to rely too much on tourism or Chinese tourism particularly – while understanding the potential of attracting this new tourism powerhouse.

Source: GB Times, Krista Lomu

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