EU-China tourism year makes progress

BRUSSELS , 9 October 2018: The European Travel Commission reported, Monday, that Chinese tourist arrivals grew by 4% growth January to August.

Growth was attributed to the ongoing EU-China Tourism Year campaign, designed to promote Europe as a destination to the Chinese tourism market.

The performance assessment was based on a study of Chinese travel to European Union (EU) countries undertaken by ForwardKeys, which monitors over 17 million flight booking transactions a day.

Data showed that growth in the first four months was up by 9.5% and in the second four months, up by 2.2%.

Looking forward to the last four months of the year, Chinese bookings to the EU are currently 4.7% ahead of where they were at the same point last year.

This is a relatively encouraging position, since outbound bookings from China to the rest of the world is growing 3.6%.

When analysing source cities, it is apparent that the recent growth is coming from the Hong Kong and Macau territories and second tier Chinese cities.

During May-August, growth from Hong Kong and Macau was 5.1%, while arrivals growth from Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Xiamen was 13.5%.

The outlook for the reminder of the year is similar, but amplified. Bookings from the tier-2 cities are 22.6% ahead of where they were at the same point last year.  Fom Hong Kong and Macau bookings are 6.8% ahead and  from the tier-1 cities are ahead by just 1.4%.

Different regions of the EU are growing at varying rates, with the stand-out sub-region being central/eastern EU. Over the second third of the year (May-August), Chinese arrivals in central/eastern EU were 10.3% up on 2017 and the outlook until the end of December, based on current bookings is 9.4% ahead.

As one of the objectives for the EU-China Tourism Year included the promotion of lesser-known destinations, these numbers indicate further success.

Top performers in the region were Estonia and Bulgaria, with increases in Chinese arrivals of 45.3% and 43.4% respectively. The outlook until the end of the year is encouraging for both destinations, with bookings ahead 48.2% and 21.6% respectively.

By contrast, arrivals in northern EU, during the second third of the year, were disappointing -0.6% down on 2017. The least optimistic outlook for the last four months of the year is currently for western EU, where Chinese bookings are 2.5% ahead of where they were at the equivalent moment in 2017.

The star performer in the southern EU is Croatia. Chinese arrivals in May-August were up 46.2% and the outlook for September-December, based on current bookings, is 66.4% ahead.

An analysis of future travel reveals that the outlook in terms of Chinese bookings to the UK, for the last four months of the year, is ahead by a slim 0.6% when compared with last year. Consequently, if the UK were to be excluded from the figures, Chinese travel bookings to the EU would be 5.7% ahead rather than 4.7% ahead, which is the figure for the EU as a whole. 

Two important festivities for Chinese outbound travel this year were China’s mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day Golden Week (18 September to 8 October). Currently, Chinese bookings to the EU are 0.6% ahead of where they were for the equivalent period last year.

While this does not sound particularly exciting, against the backdrop that Chinese outbound bookings to other long-haul destinations are behind 3.6%, the EU seems to be performing relatively well.

The best performing EU destinations during this period are set to be Sweden, 26.3% ahead, Austria, 13.1% ahead and the Netherlands, 8.7% ahead.

The stand-out non-EU destinations during October Golden Week are Serbia, Turkey and Montenegro, where current bookings are ahead 174.9%, 86.5% and 49.1% respectively.

European Travel Commission Executive Director Eduardo Santander said: “While numbers we are reporting for the May-August period are not quite as strong as the January-April period, the growth in Chinese travellers has been solid and the near future, judging by current bookings, will see the EU continuing to increase its share of the valuable long-haul Chinese traveller market.”

ForwardKeys CEO, Olivier Jager commented: “One has to take one’s hat off to the officials behind the EU-China Tourism Year because it is on course to achieve its parallel objectives of increasing the EU’s share of the outbound Chinese market and of encouraging travel to less well-established destinations.”