Chinese tourist behaviour changing amid boom in overseas travel

03 November 2017 4 min. read
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The number of holiday makers from China seeking out international destinations continues to rise, creating an increasingly lucrative segment for countries and destinations able to attract them to their shores. A report from Oliver Wyman demonstrates major shifts in the retail trends, among others, of Chinese tourists abroad.

The aviation industry is set to see ample growth over the coming decades, as more and more tourists from fast developing Asian nations take to the skies to visit global hotspots. One of the major growth drivers for tourism across Asia and the rest of the world is Chinese tourism. 

Chinese tourist numbers have grown as the country’s middle class expands and overseas trips become increasingly desirable. In a new Oliver Wyman report, titled ‘Prepare for Turbulence: The Chinese Traveler of Today and Tomorrow’, the consultancy firm looks at changes in Chinese tourist market dynamics, and how businesses across the globe may be able to better meet the needs of the group. The report is based on data from 1750 Chinese consumers.

Role of the travel agent

The research found that the planning of trips has changed over the past year, with more and more respondents turning away from travel agents in favour of planning trips themselves. In 2015, for instance, 49% of respondents planned their own trip and around 28% planned their trip jointly with their companion – while 15% opted to use a travel agent. Last year however, the number of respondents using a travel agent fell to 2%, while 15% said they planned a trip with their companion. The biggest segment last year, comprising 74% of respondents, planned the trip by themselves.

The increase in the number of respondents planning their own trip affects how companies and countries seeking to attract people to their accommodation/shores need to approach Chinese consumers – around 60% of Chinese consumers plan ahead, leveraging word of mouth, websites and other means to identify potential destinations.

Proportion of Chinese traveling

The study also found that the proportion of travellers not travelling alone has increased over the past two years, up from 46% in 2015 who were travelling with their spouse to 59%. The number of respondents travelling with children has increased by 12 percentage points to 24% - those travelling alone has fallen to 6% of the trips recorded.

The trend changes the dynamic of how holidays are spent, with respondents in couple and family situations often dining, staying and playing together in a single unit – creating a different demand on accommodation as well as local amenities. Families in general tend to be a relatively lucrative segment, with a purchasing preference for cosmetics and perfumes for women, wine and spirits for men, and food and snacks for children.

Longer trips

The study found that Chinese tourists on inter-continental trips are staying longer at their destinations, with trips to the US extending by several days since the most recent survey in 2015, and similar trends for the UK and France. The benefits for increased travel time include more accommodation and food spending, as well as increased entertainment spending. However, in the US at least, people tend to spend less time shopping, with total shopping spend falling from 41% of the trip’s total spend to 33%. The biggest drop was in the ‘shopping to resell’ category, which fell by 5%.

Average shopping spend

Tourists to France were found to be most interested in luxury goods shopping, largely for cosmetics and jewellery; while the low pound has attracted an increasing number of Chinese travellers on packaged holidays to the UK,which was previously seen as expensive. Japan and Hong Kong have seen trip lengths decrease, meanwhile, partly due to changes in shopping behaviour related to changes in the value of regional currencies – both still see increases in the number of tourist visits.

The report authors concluded, “Chinese Traveller’s continue to shift their spending towards more meaningful experiences such as exquisite dining, extraordinary cultural journeys and even adventurous sports. At the same time, cross-border e-commerce has grown rapidly, overseas travel has democratised, and there is greater availability of products at home, meaning there is less need to for buying overseas for resale”