Unlike what everybody thinks, it’s actually possible to attract Chinese outbound tourists all year. People use to think they have just two big national holidays, and that only the richest go on vacation…
It’s not (fortunately!) true.
Who are the Chinese tourists?
First, there is a lot of people in China that travel. Indeed, there were 100 million Chinese tourists in the world in 2013! And this trend tends to increase. As we guess, higher socio-professional categories represent more than a third of the tourists. They are going abroad for Chinese holidays to stay outside of the overcrowded areas, and get away from Chinese pollution. These people go in Asian country, but also in Europe, in The United States and a lot of them in Oceanian countries like Australia or New Zealand. There are also some people who travel for business: even if they don’t enjoy a lot the city they have to stay somewhere, to eat, and why not to enjoy some good time with their colleagues.
However let’s not forget the rising high middle class. They are above average earners with wages ranging from CNY 8000 to CNY 10000 per month ($1300 to 1600$) and they are looking for adventure.
Those will most likely go abroad during the two big holidays: Chinese New Year and the Golden Week.
Age category and expectations
Data: China Tourism administration
67% of the Chinese tourists are post 80s’ and post 90s’. Within this age category falls the most of the student population who has a far greater amount of holidays than the rest of the Chinese tourists. Indeed, they have a month for winter holidays and up to two months in summer. These literate Chinese tourists will prefer to go with a few friends and few luggages abroad with expectations very similar to those of many westerners:
• Seeking adventure
• Cultural discovery
• Unique experience
In China there is an increasingly popular trend, a graduation gift from their parents that allows young Chinese graduates to go on a trip during their last summer holidays even if they don’t usually have the money to go abroad.
After that, of course there are the students staying abroad who use the holidays of the country they study in to visit local tourism hotspots as well as neighbouring countries (Europe is a great example for that : 1 Visa, 28 countries). There are currently 1.3 million Chinese student abroad, representing a hell of a market, easier to reach since they have at least some basics in other languages (the language of the country they are in and/or English). Since parents think that studying abroad is better than studying in China, and average disposable income is rising, you can expect this trend to become more important in the years to come.
What are the holidays in China?
The cliché is to thing that Chinese people have just the two big holidays: The Chinese New Year and the Golden week.
• The Chinese New Year, which takes place this year 2015 from the 19th of February to the 25th of February, also called the Spring Festival is an important Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. It celebrates each year a new animal. This year it welcomes the sheep.
• The National Day Golden Week, also called the Mid-Automn Festival, takes place this year from the 1st of October to the 7th of October. It is a public holiday to celebrate the Chinese’s national day. These are two moments where Chinese people travel the most, in mainland China or in other countries.
But they are not the only days off they can get!
They have the New Year, from the 1st of January to the 3rd of January.
• The Qingming Festival, a traditional Chinese festival that aim to welcome spring, from the 4th of April to the 6th of April,
• Labour Day, which is the same as a lot of other countries and takes place from the 1st of May to the 3rd of May
• Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, here to welcome summer, from the 20th to the 22nd of June.
These events are all based on the lunar calendar. These are just some days, but people can take a long weekend to go and visit a foreign country. Even if people are less likely to go on holidays at these periods, some Chinese like to travel. They usually don’t go very far away and prefer to go on the nearby countries or cities (Hong Kong and Macau are much appreciated).
Who would really go on holidays abroad and where?
They went from every big cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. But they are also a huge amount of Chinese tourist from smaller cities, especially the cities located near the frontiers of the country. Travelling doesn’t cost very much if they can go by train or with their cars.
An important number of Chinese people travel in countries that are really close from them like Thailand, Taïwan or Hong Kong. As said before, students are underestimated: they really represent an opportunity, and are easily satisfied.As they went younger, they may come back later in life.
There are 31 administrative divisions in China. In 2011,the highest GDP per capita was found in Tianjin (99,607 RMB) while the lowest GDP was in Guizhou (22,922RMB). So Chinese travellers are more likely to be from Tianjin than from Guizhou. It doesn’t mean that people in Guizhou don’t travel. People from Shenzhen are more likely to go in Hong Kong because it is close to them and it’s the same thing with Zhuhai which is a city near Macao. They will be more likely to travel shorter distances, and favour the big holidays like the Chinese New Year or the National Day Golden Week to go in faraway countries.
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What to keep in mind?
They focus themselves on countries where they can get a visa more easily. If there is a lot of waiting time and documents to give, they won’t be attracted. So they like to go in Hong Kong where a visa is easy to get. Chinese people usually stay in Asia: the first destination is Hong Kong. Then comes Macau, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. They like these countries because there is very little to no language barrier; it’s geographically close, abundant shopping and excellent food. But, Thailand, however, dropped in rank as its political struggles caused worried Chinese tourists to stay away in 2014. South Korea also benefits from its proximity to China, with flights of only 1-3 hours.
China also became the second largest source market for New Zealand in 2012. During the year, the New Zealand government signed an agreement with China Southern Airlines to increase flight capacity between New Zealand and China.
Chinese tourists named Japan as the destination they want to go to this year. They cited the proximity and distinct culture as well as the ease to get a visa. Japan gained nearly 40% of support from people who were surveyed, ranking it higher than the U.S., which had 31%, and New Zealand, which had 27%. Japan was ranked at the top in the 2014 survey with 29% (more information on Chinese tourists top destination here.
Two big holidays and the wealthiest Chinese tourist neither the only nor the best way in Chinese outbound tourism!
In the end it is possible, mostly for countries geographically close to China to attract Chinese tourists all year round because of different factors:
• Proximity itself implies a smaller budget required for travel and less time constraint for the trips themselves since that with close countries.
• Most countries have good foreign relations at a level or another (Special case for Japan – China relation)
• This is of course without counting the already much pursued wealthy 1% Chinese that go back and forth between countries for business or travel purposes.
In the end, betting simply on those big two holidays is not the winning solution to be successful in the Chinese outbound tourism industry. There are other profile still fairly “agency free”, quite easy to reach that can be targeted.