According to Laura Jepson, much of the increase in outbound numbers in recent years can be attributed to newly wealthy first-time travellers: “These individuals tend to opt for more affordable destinations with lower transport costs, as well as destinations where they will feel more comfortable given their limited travel experience.”
Chinese outbound travel, though it has grown and diversified in recent years, is still heavily concentrated, says Jepson: “Looking at the top Chinese destination countries, East and Southeast Asia dominate the top ten; Hong Kong and Macau individually are nearly as large as the rest of the top ten combined.” However, Jepson expects visits to further-away destinations to increase over the long term as current Chinese travellers gain experience and feel more confident as travellers.
The increase in China’s outbound tourism can be nailed down to two main factors: First: GDP per capita continues to grow which has meant that more Chinese have the money to undertake international travel for the first time. “With a population of over 1.3 billion, the room for expansion is huge.” says Jepson. Second: Greater urbanisation means more people will have access to international travel. “Not only do household incomes tend to be much higher in urban centres, but by living in major cities individuals have much better access to airports and visa processing facilities. Additionally, as second and third tier cities grow there is the potential to better link them to international air transit. Currently, airports servicing these cities have limited international connectivity, but if this improves it will accelerate the growth of outbound numbers. Chinese airlines have been at the forefront of this expansion, with all three top carriers greatly expanding their international offerings in the past several years.”
Despite this anticipated growth, Jepson points out a few things that may negatively affect arrival numbers in individual destination markets. Two of the most important are the political relationship between China and the host country, and the safety of the host country: “Countries like Taiwan, Japan, and, more recently, Vietnam, have a history of fraught relations with China, and as tensions increase, trips by Chinese travellers decrease. Additionally, countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, which have historically or are currently experiencing unrest, can have trouble attracting Chinese travellers, who are particularly risk-averse.”