Chinese International Travel Monitor 2018

Cutting-edge technology, exotic foods, adventurous activities and accommodation with an authentic local flavor – this is the travel style of the new generation of Chinese travelers. Next year, Europe, Africa and the Middle East are the top new destinations for more than half of travelers.

THE YEAR OF PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES

2017 was a year of discovery and adventure for Chinese travelers. This is true for age groups but particularly for millennials, those born post-1980 and 1990. And next year will see even more of this trend.

Millennials across the globe want to ‘experience it all’ and Chinese millennials are no exception. Cutting-edge technology, exotic foods, adventurous activities and accommodation with an authentic local flavor – this is the travel style of the new generation of Chinese travelers. They want to travel further from home and stay away longer to maximize these experiences. They are spontaneous and more likely to book their accommodation at the last minute and outside of peak travel times.

This go-getting generation takes their travel inspiration from social media, film, and television but their main influences are each other. They constantly share ideas, travel tips and quirky selfies via social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, and RenRen. What’s more, they influence their parents’ travel decisions to do the same.

In this year’s survey, the desire for edgier travel experiences and an appetite for broader cultural experience is clear. Tour groups, once the preferred travel style for Chinese travelers, is definitely out, and free and easy independent travel is on the rise, with 65 percent of travelers preferring this travel style in 2018.

And as the income of Chinese millennials rises, they will continue to go further afield and seek a broader range of activities.

SPENDING CLIMBS AS TRAVELERS GO FURTHER

Not surprisingly, with the increasing appetite for long‑haul travel and longer trips, the overall Chinese travelers surveyed are spending more. In the past 12 months, they spent 40 percent more on travel than the previous year and almost two thirds (60%) intend to spend more in the next 12 months.

Millennials born after 1990 are driving this big spend. In the past year, they increased their travel spending by 80 percent. They also spent a larger proportion of their income on travel than other age groups – more than one third (36%) for post-90s, compared with around a quarter (28%) for Chinese travelers overall. Post 80s millennials spent the most each day when traveling – US346 (¥2204) per day vs US320 (¥2038) for Chinese travelers overall.

The amount spent on accommodation is also rising. This year, travelers spent US30 (¥191) more each day on accommodation than the previous year.

This rise in spending is in line with a steady increase in the income of Chinese urban dwellers, who dominate outbound traveler numbers. The change over the past decade has been massive, with the per capita disposable income of Chinese urban households increasing by 164 percent between 2007 and 2017. In the past year, there has been a rise of 8.3 percent compared with the previous year. This follows a rise of 7.8 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.

The income of middle-class households and residents of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities have been boosted by a stronger Chinese economy over the past year and healthy performance of stock markets in mainland China and Hong Kong. This is reflected in both salary and non-salary incomes of Chinese households due to the increased level of stock market investment by the Chinese middle class.3 In addition, China has been firm in its commitment to improve income inequality between urban and rural dwellers and to improve connectivity between regions with projects such as the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

It’s a trend that is strongly reflected in this year’s survey. Overall income of the survey’s participants, the majority of whom (86%) come from Tier 1 and 2 cities, increased by 30 percent this year compared with the previous year.

The income of post-90s travelers in the survey increased by 73 percent compared with the previous year. This is likely due to many of them entering the workforce upon completing their studies or moving up the pay scale after being in the workforce for several years. These travelers have used their increased income to travel further from home and stay abroad for longer. This year travelers extended their trips by an average of one to two extra days compared with the previous year.

THE LURE OF DISTANT PLACES

The trend towards long-haul destinations that emerged last year, has grown even stronger this year. Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia were favorite destinations over the past 12 months.

Asia is no longer the preferred destination. In the next 12 months, only 49 percent of travelers plan to travel to Asia next year. Instead, 60 percent of Chinese travelers intend to travel to a country they haven’t yet visited. Even when visiting the same country as previously, Chinese travelers rarely visit the same locations, preferring to try new cities or regions.

Next year, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East are the top new destinations for more than half of travelers. North America will continue to be a hot favorite, and Latin America is also emerging as a popular choice, with 26 and 13 percent of travelers planning a first-time visit to these destinations in the next year respectively. Over a third of travelers plan to visit Oceania next year, with Australia topping the list for future visits.

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INDEPENDENT HOTELS WITH LOCAL FLAVOR

Chinese travelers are becoming much more open to types of accommodation and increasingly prefer the local touch rather than simply following hotel stars. This year, 55 percent stayed at independent hotels with local flavor and 49 percent at international chain hotels. Another 33 percent tried boutique hotels, 23 percent eco-friendly hotels and 21 percent hotels with cutting-edge technology. Value for money is also a key consideration

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WHERE MARKETS COULD DO BETTER

The increase in education and income of Chinese travelers means greater demand for more authentic experiences in accommodation, services, and activities.

We have identified key areas where services could be improved. A standout area where Chinese travelers would like better service is payment methods such as payment by mobile phone and QR scan via WeChat.

Almost half of the travelers also thought facilities, such as bathrooms, and Wi-Fi needed improvement and a third would like more effective self-service counters. Booking and reservation methods were not adequate according to 30 percent of travelers and almost a quarter wanted more local experiences and activities.

We hope this year’s survey will assist our accommodation partners around the world to better understand and meet the needs of Chinese travelers in the future.

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