The fifth annual edition of the Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM), which has come to be regarded in the tour and travel industry as the authoritative, non-proprietary source of information on the world’s largest source market for international travelers, shows that the United States is still a popular destination for Chinese travelers, but that Chinese travelers face some real challenges.
The two biggest challenges facing those providing accommodation (prepared by Hotels.com, the CITM has an additional, special focus on hotel) to Chinese travelers are a lack of Mandarin-speaking staff and of China UnionPay card facilities. These are not only the most important services demanded by Chinese travelers, according to the survey, but seen as areas in pressing need of improvement. Other highlights from the CITM include the following:
—The top spenders from China are more sophisticated than the average, valuing experience (comfort, star rating, facilities and hotel services) above price.
—Most Chinese travel with friends and family, with nearly half taking their children. Only a small proportion of travelers have a backpacking experience.
—Short-haul countries were most popular with Chinese travelers in the past twelve months, with South Korea ranking first, followed by Japan, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan and Thailand.
—But the future seems set for a mixture of short and long haul destinations, with Australia number one in the travelers’ wish lists, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and the Maldives.
—When planning their next trip, Chinese travelers are particularly taking into account safety, sightseeing, dining and ease of visa applications, with the currency of the intended country not generally a factor.
The Inbound Report has prepared the following tables based on information furnished in the CITM report.
Most Popular Countries/Regions for Chinese Travelers According to Hotels.Com China Website
|Country & Rank 2014||Country & Rank 2015|
|1. USA||1. USA|
|2. Thailand||2. Thailand|
|3. Hong Kong||3. Japan|
|4. Japan||4. Hong Kong|
|5. Taiwan||5. Taiwan|
|6. South Korea||6. Australia|
|7. France||7. South Korea|
|8. Australia||8. France|
|9. Italy||9. Italy|
|10. UK||10. UK|
Most Popular Cities for Chinese Travelers According to Hotels.Com China Website
|City & Rank 2014||City & Rank 2015|
|1. Hong Kong||1. Hong Kong|
|2. Bangkok||2. Bangkok|
|3. Taipei||3. Phuket|
|4. Phuket||4. Tokyo|
|5. Seoul||5. Taipei|
|6. NYC||6. Las Vegas|
|7. Las Vegas||7. NYC|
|8. Los Angeles||8. Seoul|
|9. Tokyo||9. Los Angeles|
|10. Singapore||10. Chinag Mai|
When it comes to the countries seen by Chinese travelers as the most welcoming, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong came out tops.
Most Welcoming to Chinese Travelers
|Destination & Rank||Percentage|
|2. South Korea||11%|
|3. Hong Kong||8%|
Spending Power: The Chinese are among the biggest spenders on tourism. Outbound travelers spend $3,455 on travel a year – almost a quarter of their income. Young millennials (born in the 90s) spent the highest proportion of all, 27 percent, just ahead of the 26 percent spent by those born in the 60s.
Overall, travel spending dropped an average of 17 percent from the previous twelve months. The top spenders spent three times more than the average traveler, despite having tightened their belts spectacularly, down 68 percent. But the future looks promising, with one-third of travelers expecting to spend 30 percent more in the coming year, particularly on dining and entertainment.
Most Considered Options to Chinese Travelers when Selecting a Destination
|Ease of visa application||7%|
|Value for money||7%|
|Good Public Transit||3%|
|Quality of Accommodations||3%|
|Hospitality of Locals||3%|
|Inspired by Drama/Film||2%|
Need for New Products and Services: As Chinese travelers become more sophisticated, hotels need to increase the rate at which they provide new services. While safety, comfort, star rating, facilities and price are still top of the list of important factors, they dropped each five percent on the previous year.
Chinese travelers had a number of other demands for services that were listed as being not only important but greatly in need of improvement, including UnionPay facilities, Chinese restaurants on-site, Mandarin-speaking staff and app-based customer service. UnionPay is by far the most preferred means of payment, listed by 66 percent of respondents
Preferred Payment Method among Chinese Travelers
|Method of Payment||Percentage|
Services that are Important to Chinese Travelers but Need Improvement
|Mandarin speaking staff||15%|
|China UnionPay facilities||13%|
|Chinese restaurant on site||10%|
|Chinese TV programs||10%|
|Local transport arrangement||8%|
|App-based customer service||8%|
|Mandarin travel guides||8%|
Type of Digital Equipment Used by Chinese Travelers
|Type of Digital Equipment||%|
Purposes of Travel of Chinese International Travelers
|Visiting Friends and Relatives||16%|
Main Activities of Chinese Travelers when Abroad
|Visit museums/art galleries||15%|
|Visiting the countryside||12%|
|Organized local tours||12%|
|Sports event participation||4%|
|Watching sports events||4%|
FIT vs Groups: When it came to how people traveled in the last year, almost half (49 percent) said independent travel; 40 percent with a tour group and 40 percent with a semi-packaged tour. Although tour group travel was up 6 percent on the previous year, the trend still appears to be in the direction of greater independence, with slightly more people saying they would like to travel independently or in a semi-packaged tour group in the future, and slightly fewer with a tour group. Backpacking was the least popular travel style, with only 4 percent selecting this – though 6 percent are looking to this for the future.
|Type of Travel||%|
|Free and Easy||49%|
|Private luxury tour||8%|
Time Spent Planning Ahead of Actual Travel
|Window of Time||%|
|Less than one month ahead||10%|
|1 month ahead||33%|
|2-3 months ahead||38%|
|More than 3 months ahead||19%|
Source of Travel Information
|Source of information||%|
|Online accommodations website||44%|
|Friends and colleagues||44%|
|Online review sites||43%|
|Searching on mobile phone||28%|
How They Book: The increased use of online research and booking methods in part reflects the growing sophistication of the Chinese traveler in comparing costs. The following tables reflect this.
Preferred Booking Channels among Chinese Travelers
|Online travel agent (OTA)||74%|
And from the above …
Preferred Booking Mode with OTAs
|Website on Desktop||19%|
Preferred Booking Mode with Travel Agency
Preferred Booking Mode with Hotel
|Website on Desktop||3%|
Notes on the Methodology: The CITM is based on research involving both Chinese international travelers and hoteliers around the world, combined with Hotels.com’s own proprietary data and other research.
For the travelers’ survey, Hotels.com used Ipsos, a world leader in market research, which in May 2016 conducted interviews with 3,000 Chinese residents, aged 18–54 years, who had traveled overseas in the past 12 months. A Computer-assisted Web Interviewing technology was used. The representative sample consisted of men and women from a number of different-tiered cities.
The travelers were asked about travel behavior, booking methods, accommodation choices and many other aspects of their travel.
To complement this with the opinion of hoteliers, Hotels.com carried out a global survey of more than 5,800 Hotels.com accommodation partners, also during May 2016. The 37 participating countries were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, the USA and Vietnam.
Figures on spending, including prices paid for hotel rooms, are quoted in Chinese Renminbi (RMB) and their US dollar equivalent wherever possible. Unless otherwise indicated, the RMB–US$ exchange rate used in this survey is US$1= RMB6.5386, the rate on May 18 2016, the mid-point of the field research.