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Print Edition> Business
UPDATED: January 20, 2014 NO. 4 JANUARY 23, 2014
New Trends
Chinese people are traveling around the globe more
By Lan Xinzhen

HOLIDAY HORDES: Tourists visit Beijing's Summer Palace during the holiday week of China's National Day in October 2013 (WANG QUANCHAO)

As of January 3, the Republic of Vanuatu had simplified the visa application process for visitors from China. Holders of ordinary Chinese passports no longer need to go to the embassy of Vanuatu and only need to fill in an online visa application form and send photos of passports and identification cards to the embassy of Vanuatu via e-mail. The embassy will send scanned visas to the applicants within five working days.

Vanuatu is the latest country after the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea that, since 2013, have hoped to attract more Chinese tourists by simplifying their visa application processes. Consumption growth arising from Chinese tourists is the major reason.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) published the Tourism Green Paper 2013-14 on January 8, saying that China's outbound tourism market has grown rapidly in recent years, but the inbound tourism market has shrunk. "Behind this change is the redirection of global consumption forces," said Wu Jinmei, deputy editor in chief of the green paper and a researcher with the CASS.

Growing outbound travel

According to the green paper, in recent years, China's outbound travel has increased very rapidly. In 2000, 10 million passengers traveled abroad; in 2013, that figure hit 97.3 million. It is estimated that more than 100 million Chinese will travel abroad in 2014.

As more Chinese travel abroad, their consumption in foreign countries has also soared. In 2013, outbound Chinese travelers spent a total of $102 billion, ranking first in the world, said the green paper.

Wu said for the growing outbound travel by Chinese, signboards and tour guides in the Chinese language can now be seen in many world famous shops.

Wu thinks the spending boom by Chinese visitors abroad can be attributed to various factors. For most Chinese people, outbound travel is not typical. Once they have the opportunity to travel abroad, many will buy consumer items that can be used for several years. Another reason is that China's tariff rates on imported goods are still too high, making Chinese people more willing to spend in foreign countries.

"We hope Chinese people can spend in a more sensible way. Of course, we also expect steady, sustainable and sound development of outbound travel and overseas consumption in this stage," said Wu.

Many countries in the world are competing to attract Chinese tourists in various ways, taking measures such as simplifying their visa application processes and investing heavily in promoting themselves in the Chinese market. Hotels, tourist attractions and shops in these countries all consider Chinese tourists as increasingly important customers.

Song Rui, Director of the Tourist Research Center of the CASS, said that more and more young Chinese tourists are going abroad—they tend to be more independent, know more about foreign customs and are more willing to integrate with local cultures.

One thing should not be ignored. In 2013, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Japan declined sharply, but travel to Russia soared. According to Wu, this sharp contrast is closely related to political reasons. This has directly affected tourism revenues in the two countries. While outbound travel by Chinese is growing, political factors have dramatically influenced Chinese tourists' choice of outbound travel.

Changing domestic travel

According to the green paper, Chinese tourists made a total of 3.58 billion domestic trips, up by 10 percent from the previous year. Revenue from domestic travel grew by 12 percent to stand at 2.85 trillion yuan ($467.21 billion) in 2013.

Jin Zhun, Secretary General of the Tourist Research Center of the CASS, said that in 2013, more Chinese were traveling within the country. "Traveling used to be a kind of recreation solely reserved for the leisure class, but now more people can enjoy it," said Jin.

According to a survey conducted by the Tourist Research Center of the CASS, most Chinese tourists earn between 3,000-8,000 yuan ($490-1,310) each month.

Chinese tourists used to take part in group trips in the past, but in 2013, most of them chose independent travel. Take Mount Emei as an example. In 2012, 80 percent of the visitors were group travelers, but in 2013, 80 percent of visitors were independent travelers. In 2012, 70 percent of visitors to Jiuzhai Valley and Changbai Mountain were group travelers, but in 2013, 70 percent of visitors to the two tourist attractions were independent travelers. Jin says the number of domestic group tours will continue to drop in 2014.

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