Chinese Tourists

china tourist

Chinese tourists have caught the attention of travel agencies and hotels from every corner of the world. So what is the reason for this peaked interest in Chinese travelers? And what makes up this emerging demographic and how to attract them to your destination?

Why do you have to focus on these tourists?

Chinese travellers are a targeted group because of the number of the Chinese population and their ever-growing consumption capacities.  Let us analyze these factors so we can better understand the potential of this massive market.

Chinese are large in number

As stated in the Annual Report of China Outbound Tourism Development 2009-2012, there have been 70.25 million Chinese tourists traveling abroad just in 2011, with an increase of 22%. source China National Tourism Bureau


According to its quantity, China’s outbound market has already been one of the biggest markets on the globe, 1.2 times the US market, and 3.5 times the Japanese market.
China has already surpassed Japan and become the No.1 outbound tourism market. According to World Travel Organization, there will be an estimated 100 million Chinese people travelling abroad by 2020.

Tourists from China are generous in consumption

According to the data in 2011, Chinese tourists have become the most generous spending tourists in London, with 203.04 pounds on a single expense, 10% higher than that of the second country. The U.S. also benefits plenty from Chinese tourists who spend on average $7,107 per person, topping the chart on average expense again. From the chart below, we can see that most of the money spent abroad by Chinese tourists is on shopping.

china tourist consumption

Consumption of Chinese tourists

AC Nielsen and Pacific Asia Travel Association also pointed out that the expense of Chinese outbound tourists is close to ¥21,000 ($3,300)

.Who are the Chinese tourists?

You have to understand what Chinese tourists like if you want them to shell out money at your travel destination. However, it is very difficult to summarize all the information on Chinese tourists because they can be so different according to different ages, regions, and so on. It is crucial to pay close attention to their unique characteristics and major differences between them in order to cash in on this new era of travelers.

Regional Difference between Chinese travellers

Tourists from each province of China have their own characteristics, but they can be generally divided into two groups: tourists from the North of China and those from the South.

Travel habit

According to the Nielsen China Outbound Travel Monitor, most Chinese tourists are from the south. In 2008, 10% of the residents from the South of China visited a foreign country, much higher than that in the North.

, The better economic base can probably explain the higher outbound travel frequency of Chinese tourists from the south.
Another possible reason is convenience. Most travel agencies capable of outbound travel organizations are from the south.
Geographic convenience also accounts for the difference in travel frequency between tourists from the north and south. The countries close to China’s north are Russia, North Korea, and Mongolia which can’t compete with the countries neighboring China in the south in tourism like the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, and so on.

Chinese Consumption habit

Though the number of tourists from the north of China is smaller than that of the south, the Northerners have the advantage of spending more if they do ever travel.

According to the study released by Nielsen, 10% of the tourists from the south of China prefer to stay in 5-star hotels or vacation villas while the people who like 5-star hotels and vacation villas account for 20% of all the tourists from the north of China. Source

Purpose for traveling

Most Chinese people travel outbound for two reasons: business and/or leisure.
Amongst all the outbound tourists from China, business travelers contribute 46% and another 31% is from leisure tourism, as China news reports. And these two kinds of tourists have quite different factors that foreign industry needs to be aware of.

Business tourists

Business travelers care much more about business-related services of hotels such as

  • Internet access
  • 24h food delivery
  • ticket booking service
  • the efficiency of hotel service.

All these factors have one thing in common: to provide convenience for business people. It means convenience is more important for businessmen than normal tourists. Some detailed cultural taboos also can’t be overlooked since Chinese people can be quite superstitious. An unfortunate number like 4, representing death, is what most Chinese business tourists will like to avoid.

What’s also interesting is that Chinese business travelers care more about price and quality than leisure tourists. Since the anti-corruption campaign, business travelers have to consider their expenses more modestly to avoid any corruption scandals. via,

Leisure tourists

Compared with business tourists, leisure tourists care more about

  • entertainment and recreation facilities
  • TV programs in Chinese
  • luggage service.

All of them are about personal entertainment and relaxation, which is what leisure tourists are looking for.

Senior Citizen Tourists

Chinese senior citizens are quite important to the tourism market because they have time, money as well as the desire to travel. Another reason for travel agencies to like them is that old tourist in China usually travel during the off-season so they can fill the slow seasons with bookings.

Expanding the Market of Chinese Senior Citizen Tourists

The average income of Chinese people is increasing. It goes the same for senior citizens.

China ranks number one in senior citizen population and with the most rapid growth in the world. By the end of 2014, there will be 200 million people over 60 years old living in China. According to the tradition of Chinese, children are expected to care for and financially support their parents for as long as possible.,

Senior tourists are spending more on travel

Because of their humble upbringing during the Mao era, most citizens over 60 are more penny-pinching. Though it doesn’t mean they are poor. Contrary to their penny-pinching ways, some senior tourists do prefer first-class tour services. What makes it even better is that the percentage of this group of senior tourists is increasing. (Source: People Daily)

Much middle age Chinese people are very willing to spend on their parents after they become rich because of the culture of filial piety. It is seen as loyal and loving to send their parents on abroad trips. These tourists are not sensitive to price but to quality.

Special needs

Many senior tourists would like to come back or recommend their friends to tours that gave the best service and make them feel cared for. So a good tour guide who can give elders extra attention can mean much more return business.
Senior Chinese tourists have special needs in accommodation different from western tourists and young Chinese tourists like beds, hot water, and so on.

China student tourists

“Study hard, play harder.” Before exams, Chinese students are the hardest working student in the world. After that, they let loose as international tourists. And Chinese parents are known for their generosity on giving money to their children to reward them for their academic achievements. With strong financial support from parents, Chinese students have formed a special market in tourism.

They like outbound tours

These young teens like outbound traveling routes, especially destinations such as Europe and Australia.

They like adventures

Special interest tours with an edge are very popular amongst China student tourists

  • water travel
  • natural leisure tour
  • amusement park tour
  • famous university tour

They are big spenders

According to a survey from China Consumer Association, after the infamous college entrance exam which it can make or break one’s education future, students spend money way more generously than others. They are especially generous in travel, restaurants and digital products.

Investment Traveling

With soaring inflated property prices in China, many people choose to invest overseas to keep the value of their money. In China citizens technically own their property but not the land because the land belongs to the communist government. The thought of being able to own a piece of land and property in a foreign country for a fairly affordable price can be a real draw to Chinese citizens. Chinese people firmly believe in owning land and properties as a way to expand their wealth. And on their leisure travels they often keep an eye out for any eye-catching properties.

Investment Traveling

Solving the Chinese Tourist’s Puzzle

Since the Reform and Opening of China’s economy, more and more Chinese citizens are traveling abroad to visit, travel and consume products around the world. Chinese tourists have already become the driving force for the tourism industry. At the same time, they are also confusing many foreign travel agencies and companies in this field because they have unique and special requests and travel habits. To solve the puzzle, you will need to understand the culture of the Chinese and the habits of their thinking. Then you can define their needs and your selling points.

After defining their needs, you will need to work out a strategy, online, offline, or both, that suits your company and attract the right Chinese tourist.

Next step: How to Attract Chinese tourists?



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  • Clear and Present Taker (and User)

    Not a bad article as introduced to me by Simon Arnal from a TIME one. From your description of various conditions I fit in the classification of a Northern senior Chinese citizen visiting at off-peak periods on business.

    Five-star hotels, top service, good views of the airstrip and the skyline, tasty food, electronics sales, newspapers of the world, nice virgin girls – these are very important requirements for the modern traveller.

    Like many other Chinese I also like to sometimes look for property deals. Property is also a form of art, and as this is subject to opinion I find it a bit more interesting than collecting art or corporations. Everyone does art while for corporations, they are semi-alive like pengzai (bonsai as adopted by the Japanese) where leaf trimmings equate to downsizing, branch cuttings the closure of regional offices, fiscal injection is watering, the prospectus the diary of its growth and of course, when you take good care of it the plant would live almost as long as you do.

    Okay maybe I’ll retract a little. Property is like a bigger and livelier form of art, that you collect all the same and sell later to the highest bidder – the latter everyone thinks.

    I am not interested in luxury brands because other than the questionable durability and value I think they are but a waste of my money and time. Those French boutiques should thank us instead of calling us names and barking or they can remain proud but alone and abandoned if that is their calling in life.

    So as China and the world are opening up to each other I think dominant Chinese tourism will be a strong force for a long time, and with the Trans Pacific Partnership signed in clockwork motion by the enigmatic leader of the free world and monumental plans like the New Silk Road reaching actualisation in a new arrangement of world power a truly exciting future awaits.


    Fabuleux article : pérennisez de cette façon

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  • Dear Philip,
    I was wondering about Chines tourist visiting Croatia.
    Do you have any recommendations how we could promote our destination in China?
    Is there any travel agencies in China which sends tourist at that part of Europe?
    I would be really grateful if you could give me some guidance

    Best regards,

  • Dear Phillip

    My request is do you have any information (stats) on Chinese outbound to Africa especially southen Africa and which countries they visit in order of preference. Are you able to rank the top 10 chinese outbound generating provinces. Further I am confused with the different segments of chinese outbound, even with the explanation given in the article above, help

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    Kind regards,
    Carita Bathman,Palana, Flinders Island, Tasmania, Australia

    • Hi Carita, I’d like to know more about your business plan in details. If it’s not convenient to put it here. Please email me.

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    • Thanks Philip for the condense info about Chinese outbound tourist market ! That helps a lot for my school’s assignment I’m working on right now.

      I’d love to hear more from your opinion and suggestion about the potential of Chinese travellers to Scandinavia market, especially in Finland ? Thanks in advance

      Linh Nguyen

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    I look forward to hearing from you.

    With kindest regards,

    • Glad to see you comment, I have sent you email.

      • Dear philip,
        i’m a tour operator from Ethiopia
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        I am confident that there is a market, and east Africa Eco tour and travel would be very happy to work with an agency in China on a commission basis. Unfortunately the web site is only in English at the moment, and we do not have a Chinese version. Maybe this is the next step to take! please see our wesite :
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  • Under the section ” purpose for travelling” it says that 46% amongst all outbounds tourists from China are business related and 31 % leisure. Where does the rest (27 %) go? Also, I’ve read that during 2011 number for business related outbound was 90%! Could this be a correct number? Best, Jonas

    • Hi Jonas,
      Other purpose can be education, volunteer and so on.
      As the difference of percentage, I think it’s because data from different surveys are different. For example, many tourists from China travel under the name of business travel, but they will take two weeks tour in foreign countries, so they can be business tourists and also leisure tourists. And I think 90% business tourists is too crazy. It’s hard to imagine that 63 million tourists from China are for business.

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt

    Dear Philip,
    congratulations for your comprehensive analysis! I would agree with most of what you wrote. However, as usual we have to be careful with statistics and their interpretation. One example: You cite the fact that people from South China are more often travelling abroad than from other parts of China. There is a simple reason for that: Chinese statistics count any border crossing, if only for a few hours, not just overnight stays. So for Mainland Chinese living in Shenzhen or other places close to Hong Kong and Macau it is much easier and cheaper to cross the border maybe just for a business meeting compared to somebody living far away from any border, for instance in Shanghai.

    I hope we will here more insights from you, Philip!
    Wolfgang Georg Arlt, Director COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (

    • Hi, Wolfgang,
      Thank you very much for pointing this out because it’s not even mentioned in Nielsen’s report. But you know, there’s no perfect data. I’ve hesitated for a long time before adding this data. There are two reasons for me to put it
      1. My point is that China is so big and Chinese tourists are so different between each province, even each city.
      2. It’s true that many people travel to Hong Kong and Macau from South, especially Guangdong, but many of them are not from Guangdong but from everywhere in China. And the tourists go to Hong Kong from north have been increasing greatly. For example, in a second tire a city in the north, He Fei, the number of tourists to Hong Kong in 2011 has exceeded 100,000. It shows again how different Chinese tourists from different provinces can be.
      What’s also needs to stree is that in all the reports and data from Chinese government, Chinese outbound tourists include tourists to Hong Kong and Macau. It sometimes influences the result, so I always try to avoid those data if it confuse readers. Thank you again for pointing this important fact out. Hope to hear more insight from you!


    How many Chinese tourists visit Bulgaria.
    What is the future of this area.
    Best regards !
    Jordan Kamburov


      We are tour operator in srilanka and i am lost in the Chinese Market, so complicated.
      We are arrnge transport accomantion activity all destination in srilanka we would like to work with China based travel agency
      contact us please

    • Hi, Jordan
      Thank you for your reply, China tourism bureau authorized group tour to Bulgaria in 2007. But individual tour is still pending approval. But from this year, Chinese tourists can enter Bulgaria with Schengen Visa, but it’s difficult to get the number of them and there’s no government data about that.
      You will see more tourists from China in Bulgaria after the open for Schengen Visa. And the problems for attracting Chinese tourists to Bulgaria is that there’s no enough information about how to travel there like the information about hotel, interesting place, climate, accomodation, price.
      Another disadvantage is that now only group tour is allowed and they usually have few options. Most of the service don’t have rose garden visit.
      Those problems will be fixed later. And the feedback from most tourists been to Bulgaria before are very positive. But they focus on some special things.

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