LONDON, 7 November 2018: Safety, easy visas, direct flights and sensitivity to the Chinese holiday calendar were citied as vital components to attract Chinese tourists.
ForwardKeys presented the key takeaways during a presentation on Tuesday at the World Travel Market, UK’s top travel trade show.
ForwardKeys predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million daily flight-booking transactions. It said data revealed four important factors that destinations needed to consider if they were to secure a larger share of the Chinese outbound tourism pie.
The insights came from an analysis of the success of the EU-China Tourism Year, carried out for the European Travel Commission.
The increase in Chinese travel to Ireland during May-August 2018 illustrates the value of new direct flights.
Ireland experienced a negative 2017 and a decrease of 7.8% in the number of Chinese arrivals during January-April 2018. However, three new routes reversed the downward trend and resulted in a 4.1% rise in Chinese visitor arrivals during May-August.
Other examples include Belgium and Greece, where new direct routes led to growth in Chinese visitors during May-August 2018.
Destinations that are served by one-stop flights, via regional or national gateway, are less likely to appeal to Chinese travellers than direct nonstop flights.
The benefits of visa reform were particularly notable in Serbia, which experienced a 173% increase in flight arrivals from China in 2017 after the country-waived visas for Chinese tourists on 15 January.
Serbia also saw triple-digit growth in Chinese arrivals during the first eight months of 2018.
ForwardKeys has previously reported other substantial increases in Chinese tourism due to easier visa policies, most notably to Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Sensitivity to the Chinese calendar is important because holidays such as the Chinese New Year and China’s National Day Golden Week see very large numbers of people seeking overseas trips in order to use both public holidays and annual leave,” said ForwardKeys VP Insights Olivier Ponti. “A good understanding of the subtleties of Chinese holidays will greatly help the industry to plan, anticipate and capitalise on demand. Destination marketeers can better time their campaigns, hotel managers can better prepare to make Chinese visitors feel welcome and retailers can stock items more likely to appeal to the Chinese tourist.”
Security concerns are crucial too. After a wave of terror attacks afflicted continental Europe and the eastern Mediterranean in 2015 and 2016, Chinese visitors stayed away. However, as those destinations have been seen to be safer, the Chinese market has recovered. For example, Turkey, which is benefiting from the China-Turkey Tourism Year 2018 and an improved security image, has seen a 69% year-on-year spike in arrivals between January and August this year.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), mainland Chinese travellers in 2017 made 223 million global outbound trips. They spent €228 billion last year, placing China at the top of UNWTO’s list of high-spending source markets for the seventh year in a row.
Even though the growth rate of Chinese outbound travel has tended to slow over the years, the market is far from saturated. ForwardKeys data showed that the average annual growth of air departures from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao SAR, collectively was +9.4% between 2013 and 2017.
EU destinations have seen Chinese arrivals for the first eight months of 2018 rise by 4% year-on-year, with forward bookings running 4.7% ahead – compared to a global average of 3.6%. These numbers might have been even higher if it were not for the FIFA World Cup in Russia, which drew Chinese fans during the summer. Nevertheless, this trend bodes well for the EU in the long term.
Ponti added: “The interest of Chinese travellers in soccer is excellent news for European destinations, which will host the UEFA European Championship 2020 in 12 cities across Europe.”