Shopping no Longer Number One: Nothing in the new, seventy-four-page sixth annual China International Travel Monitor (CITM) put out by Hotels.com catches the attention of the reader as much as the declaration that “Shopping is no longer holds the attraction it once held for Chinese travelers as the key motivation.”
The CITM, which has achieved status as the most authoritative, comprehensive and non-proprietary resource work on the Chinese travel market, goes on to tell us, “Chinese travelers have entered a new phase in their evolution. More educated and increasingly sophisticated in their tastes and expectations, they want more of everything—more time traveling, more locations, more exotic experiences, and they are spending more … This is a key finding of this year’s CITM and it applies across all age brackets. Just like their millennial counterparts, those born in the 1960s are spreading their travel wings, seeking more adventurous destinations further from home, visiting more locations on each trip, staying away longer and traveling internationally more often.”
No More “Boomers”—CITM Uses Different Demographics: The CITM fashions its findings using a slightly different take on demographics. When analyzing the response of those surveyed for the report, travelers were divided into four age categories—those born after 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990 in order to provide further insights into choices and preferences of different generations. Those born after 1980 and 1990 rea also referred to as millennials. This group, also known in China as the “new generation” as distinct from the “post generation” born prior to the 1980s, is increasingly driving consumption and spending patterns of Chinese travelers.
As noted, for the first time in the survey’s history, shopping is no longer the prime reason for international travel. Leisure, culture and eco-tourism are the new flavors. Shopping as the prime reason for traveling dropped from 68 percent of travelers expressing an interest in 2016 to only 33 percent doing so in 2017, indicating the increasing diversification of Chinese travel activity preferences.
Chinese travelers intend to spend an average of 10 percent more on international travel over the next 12 months. Millennials looked to increase their spend the most, with around two-thirds of post 80s and 90s saying they expect to spend more. Dining and entertainment are the main winners for future spending.
Methods of Payment: The preferred method of payment across the age groups is UnionPay. (Obviously, there is an overlap of payment methods with travelers using a number of different methods depending on available facilities. Alipay is also common among younger millennials. “As UnionPay and Alipay are not commonly accepted overseas,” says CITM, “this is seen as the most important area for improvement for Chinese travelers.”
Traveling Longer and More Often: There are a number of standout trends in traveler behavior in this year’s CITM. Chinese travelers are traveling internationally more often and for longer, and many are seeking new, more adventurous destinations. All age groups are traveling more often and for longer, with the number of trips and days per trip increasing in the past year from 3.4 and 3.9 and from five to seven days.
Time Spent on Planning: When planning their trip, Chinese travelers spend considerable time researching. On average they spend 12 days researching online and start planning one to two months before their trip. Younger travelers spend less time planning than older travelers.
Influencers: Spouse/partner and friends are the key influencers for travel, followed by online and offline professional channels across generations. Parents are ranked sixth out of 17 influences on post 90s travel destination selection and 13th among other generations.
Travel Companion: Non-millennials and older millennials (post 60-80s) usually trvel with their own family. Post 70s and 80s tend to travel with their children, while post 90s are more likely to travel on their own or with t heir parents.
Part Two of INBOUND Report’s take on the China International Travel Monitor will appear in our next issue.
A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: Hotels.com engaged the market research firm Ipsos to conduct interviews during May 2017 with 3,000 Chinese residents, aged 18-54, who had traveled overseas in the past 12 months. A computer-assisted web interviewing technology was used for the interviews and the representative sample consisted of men and women from a number of different-tiered cities.
Chinese cities are classified into different tiers based on their population, economic size and political ranking. Tier 1 includes cities such as Beijing and Shanghai; Tier 2 provincial capitals as Chengdu; Tier 3 medium sized cities such as Zhuhai; and Tier 4 smaller sized cities. The travelers were asked about their spending patterns, travel preferences, booking methods, accommodation choices and future plans, along with many other aspects of their travel.