→ Following a week of talks by senior officials from both the U.S. and China, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week announced the U.S.-China Tourism Year for 2016, an initiative that celebrates last year’s reciprocal extension of visa validity and supports increased travel and tourism exports. Partnering under the framework of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), the two sides will work together to expand and shape U.S.-China travel and tourism. Throughout the year, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), in collaboration with Brand USA and other partners, will design and execute a year of events and activities that will promote and further open travel between the United States and China, expand market access, and advance initiatives to ensure a quality visitor experience for increasing numbers of travelers to and from both nations.
→ Brand USA is now the lead organization on the U.S. side for the annual U.S.-China Leadership Summit. The ninth annual Summit was held in mid-September in Los Angeles, attracting more than 200 delegates. The first U.S.-China Leadership Summit was held in 2007, in Charlotte, N.C. Locations of the summit alternate between the U.S. and China yearly. The U.S. Travel Association initiated the summit in coordination with (China National Tourism Administration CNTA). After having prime responsibility every year for planning the summit on behalf of the United States, U.S. Travel phased out of this role in 2014, when it shared responsibilities with Brand USA.
→ In an update on the activities of the NTA China Inbound program, Haybina Hao, NTA‘s director of international development, reported that enrollment in NTA’s China Inbound Program reached 200 operators this year. When NTA launched its China Inbound Program in 2008, it qualified some 60 receptive tour operators for the program.
→ After being overlooked as a key target group in the decade since Chinese domestic and international tourism numbers began to take, the senior market is getting a serious look from tour operators and travel agents. News accounts of late have cited instances in which older Chinese have expressed the opinion that they were not treated with respect (in one article a tour guide said the travel industry doesn’t actively seek business from senior travelers because they pose too many risks while providing too little profit) nor were they offered products that accommodated their budgets as travel companies went after the target big-spending, 25-54 demographic group.
But a recent article in the Singapore-based online news publication, AsiaOne, pointed to the sheer size of the market as one reason that travel suppliers have begun to cultivate by developing more product for the over-55 population. Consider the following:
What seems to be appealing to operators is that, although the margin for parsimonious seniors is low, the senior market is one that favors group travel, which helps to offset the low profit margin they realize. As such, travel companies and the government seem to be responding. The China Association of Travel Services, for instance, is working on guidelines for the industry that will focus on services, safety and healthcare for senior tourists. The standard, which is now being drafted, will require travel products to suit the psychological and physiological characteristics of older travelers.
Snapshot of Key Numbers
On the Senior Travel Market in China
|Chinese aged 60 and over in 2013*||202 million|
|Est. Number of Chinese aged 60 and over in 2050||400 million|
|Proportion of Chinese 50 and older who definitely plan to travel||87%|
* According to China’s Bureau of National Statistics