Takeaways on capturing Chinese market

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.

They are the development of direct flights, visa convenience, sensitivity to the Chinese holiday calendar and a reputation for being a safe place to visit.

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.”


  1. Good points in the article but I’m afraid there simply isn’t the will to address the issues raised by Andrew in his response.
    And I’m not sure that all of the issues are of great concern to the Chinese Market – as evidenced to anyone who has visited China and experienced their catastrophic urban pollution levels.
    If Thailand really does want to hang it’s Tourism hat on the volume of the Chinese Market then the article pretty much hits the bullseye.
    But I do think Thailand needs to seriously considers the consequences of playing the numbers game with the Chinese Market or any other Market, especially in terms of the degradation of the product and the effect of unusually large volumes of Tourists of any Nationality on the holiday experience of others.
    Look what happened with the Russian and European Markets in the past.
    The fact is that Regional competition for the much vaunted “Quality Tourists” is and will continue to grow more intense. Flooding itself with large volumes of low value Tourists of any Nationality will not aid Thailand’s cause.
    And with rising prices in all areas Thailand is already approaching a serious price v value / experience conflict especially in some of its more “mature” Resorts.

  2. Thailand and other Asian countries must reconsider and adapt to strong competition from EU member countries. It’s about time for Thailand to readjust tourism country market segments and not rely and concentrate heavily on just a few country markets. It’s very risky. Thailand should concentrate more on implementing development and creating a strong domestic environment rather than just promoting tourism. Once everything in Thailand is developed and infrastructure gets better and better, the country will attract global tourists to the country with less promotional activities, budget and resources spent.It will have a clear image and positive news and information would follow publicized by all media globally.

  3. An excellent article on how to increase your share of the Chinese market.

    Some of the ForwardKeys report at WTM 2018 can apply to companies. Safety and increased direct flights however need a national agenda. Mr Somkid’s 20 second video via Jack Ma’s Alibaba will reach 800 million and will help but it’s not a “sustainable “ response to falling nos of visitors from China – it’s a soon to be forgotten, knee jerk reaction like the 2 month 2,000 baht fee waiver for visa on arrival.

    Thailand has to get serious and tackle

    •dirty beaches
    •polluted seas
    •water safety
    •basic honest policing

    If it is serious to provide a long term plan to encourage effective tourism development.

    Andrew J Wood

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