Thailand tops tourism list for Chinese in H1
Visits were up 26% before boat disaster
Thailand remained the top destination for Chinese travelling abroad in the first half of the year, according to a joint report by the China Tourism Academy and online travel firm Ctrip.
The report said 71.3 million Chinese tourists departed from more than 200 Chinese cities en route to 130 countries in the first half, a 15% year-on-year increase.
Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, said the most popular destinations were Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, the US and Cambodia, in that order.
New destinations with fast growth include Serbia, Laos, Belgium, Vietnam, Sweden, Turkey, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Finland.
"Among popular locations, Thailand remained the hottest destination for Chinese tourists in the first half of this year," Mr Dai said.
Thailand's Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that 19.4 million foreigners travelled to the country in the first half, up 12% from the same period last year. Of the total, China topped the list with 5.9 million visitors, up 26% year-on-year.
The ministry believes that the number of Chinese tourists will reach 10 million this year, despite the high-profile Phuket boat accident in July that claimed the lives of 47 Chinese tourists.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat visited Phuket to follow up on the tourism situation and safety measures since the boat incident, which resulted in mass cancellations of Chinese bookings in the following weeks.
Mr Weerasak said the government has ordered improvements in safety and security throughout the island and at other attractions to restore tourist confidence.
The plan is to draw tourists to Phuket year round to enjoy the beautiful beaches and unique culture, the minister said.
Mr Weerasak's visit was also aimed at encouraging bookings by foreign tourists ahead of the high season that runs from October to March.
According to Mr Dai, Chinese are moving on from a sole interest in shopping. Now they are enjoying the experience of local culture and exploring new attractions while in Thailand, he said.
The report said Russia gained Chinese visitors during this year's World Cup, while Turkey is also rapidly climbing up the list.
Figures showed that Chinese outbound travellers are 53% female and 47% male.
Chinese tourists still prefer travelling in groups, but most young travellers are opting to travel by themselves.
Mr Dai said the growth of outbound tourism is due to an increase in disposable income, a greater marketing push by major tourist destinations, visa facilitation, tax-exemption policies that promote shopping, and innovative travel products such as island hopping, parent and child tours, and customised travel.
The top 20 departure cities in the first half were Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xi'an, Hangzhou, Kunming, Tianjin, Changsha, Zhengzhou, Nanchang, Guiyang, Jinan, Hefei, Nanning and Fuzhou.
The top 10 departure cities with the highest year-on-year growth were Xi'an (180%), Guiyang (175%), Nanchang (162%), Kunming (155%), Zhengzhou (146%), Taiyuan (123%), Chongqing (120%), Jinan (115%), Hefei (110%) and Changzhou (107%).
Average spending per person per trip for Chinese going overseas was 5,200 yuan (24,960 baht).
For Ctrip, Mr Dai said outbound tourists using the platform for group tours versus independent travel was 50:50. A new trend is booking customised trips and using local guides.
In the first half of the year, the number of tourists who signed up for Ctrip's outbound private trips saw a 300% increase year-on-year.
Top requests by travellers included virtual tours, cuisine-related inquiries, sightseeing and transport.