Post-pandemic revenge travel takes to the skies in China’s Golden Week

Thousands of years ago China’s emperors worshipped the moon for bountiful harvests, and on 1 October Chinese people believe that the moon is at its very brightest and fullest. China’s landscapes are dotted with lanterns to light the way to good luck, and across the nation people give mooncakes, rich pastries filled with sweet-bean or lotus-seed paste, as gifts in the week-long Mid-Autumn Festival.

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival this year coincides with National Day on 1 October, creating an eight day Golden Week holiday which is widely seen as a test for China’s post-pandemic bounceback. In mid-September, online travel booking website Qunar was forecasting that the total number of domestic flights over the holiday would surpass 15 million, a ten per cent increase on 2019. Lower ticket prices, promotions and curbs on international travel are all contributing to this surge in domestic traffic.

Chinese domestic tourism reaching last year’s levels?

Mid-September had already seen the first sales figures showing tourism growth year-on-year. China’s hotel occupancy rates in the week to 12th September stood at +9% against last year; this marked the first year-on-year increase since the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile Alibaba-backed online travel platform Fliggy announced that hotel and airline bookings made in the week to 15th September outsold those made last year.

There is plenty of confidence in the domestic market. China’s largest mainland hotel operator  Huazhu has unveiled plans to open more than 1,600 new hotels this year and has just raised HK$6.07 billion (USD783 million) with a second listing in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Hauzhu is aiming for a total of 10,000 hotels in China by 2023. And Hampton by Hilton has just signed its 500th property in China.

The Red Dragon’s economic recovery

It’s increasingly clear that there’s plenty of pent-up demand in China. Restaurants, hotels and airports are busy again. Luxury spend is bouncing back. Expenditure from China’s middle income segment is not far behind, with compact cars following luxury models in seeing sales rise to near last year’s levels.

In fact, The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s recent reforecast for China predicts that the country will experience growth of +1.7% this year. This would make it the only member of the G20 to see positive economic output in 2020. Prompt initial action against Covid-19 positioned China for a quicker recovery than many nations, and the OECD’s forecast of growth of +8% next year suggests a speeding uptick in spending.

Revenge spending and revenge travel

The recent surge in household expenditure has been characterised as “revenge spending” as Chinese people celebrate surviving the fear and death of the pandemic. Golden Week is the first real opportunity for “revenge travel” and all indications point to a population increasingly comfortable with ‘the new normal’ and willing to travel. Complaints on online forums about sold-out hotels and tourist attractions abound, and traffic analysis indicates plenty of China’s traditional Golden Week jams on major routes.

Winners of the Golden Week visitor numbers lottery so far include Sanya on China’s holiday island Hainan, with reported waits for check-in up to 40 minutes in recent days. Even in August, Sanya Phoenix International airport in Hainan was reporting arrivals up +4% year-on-year. Macau relaxed its entry requirements for mainland tourists on 23 September, just in time for Golden Week. On the mainland, weekend hotel availability is limited in many cities.

Travel in the age of coronavirus

To help meet this increasing demand, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism allowed tourist attractions and scenic sites to increase their capacity to 75% for Golden Week. In the age of coronavirus, this is of course combined with pre-booking, temperature checks, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols, helping both visitors and attractions to find new levels of reassurance of safety in travel.

The Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute compares the post-pandemic recovery to that which took place after the 2008 Wenchan earthquake in Sichuan. The Wenchan earthquake survivors showed similar inclinations towards revenge travel as they wanted experiences to bring them joy post-trauma. Elements which will help in the era of coronavirus include not just implementing anti-Covid 19 measures but effectively communicating them too.

China’s travel future

Traditionally one of the busiest times to travel in China, 782 million holidays were taken over Golden Week last year, and more than 7 million people travelled abroad. While 2020 levels may not quite reach these dizzying heights, China’s travel sector is unquestionably picking up. More than 90% of attractions are open, and so are over 75% of travel agents. While some of this is discount-driven, Chinese travellers’ increasing comfort with trip-taking bodes well for the future.

Professor Dr Wolfgang George Arlt of the Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute is confident that mainland China will remain the no 1 international tourism source market for many years to come. Economic and demographic developments, a growing middle class, more openness and increased ease of travel, and the easing or removal of visa restrictions will all contribute.

As Chinese tourists’ previously constrained holiday ideas take flight in the Middle Kingdom, interest in overseas destinations is rising too. While quarantine remains in force for international arrivals (including returning Chinese nationals), many tourism brands are maintaining awareness in the market through smart digital initiatives.

We can help maintain and increase your visibility to China’s travellers ready for the restart of international travel. Don’t let your competitors get ahead of you when the Chinese start booking overseas travel again. Contact us for a no obligation chat now.

10 reasons why Portuguese tourism brands should invest in the Chinese outbound travel market

  1. It’s the largest outbound travel market in the world

133 million Chinese travelled overseas in 2016 – a rise of 11.5% from 2015.

  1. And it’s still growing

The number of outbound Chinese tourists is forecast to hit 220 million by 2020 and spend forecast to reach $US 255 billion by 2025 – twice that of the USA.

  1. It can only get bigger

Only around 6% of Chinese people own a passport, but they want them! Over 10 million new passports are issued every year. It is estimated that, by 2025, 12% of the population will be able to travel abroad.

  1. China is among the fastest growing markets to Portugal

Chinese visitor arrivals to Portugal in 2016 were up 19% on 2015. The total figure is around 200,000 per year. This figures has doubled over the last three years.Forecasts predict a growth rate of 35% per year to reach one million arrivals per year in Portugal within the next few years.

  1. Chinese tourists are the biggest holiday spenders

Chinese visitors to Portugal spend more than any other nationality. €72 million in 2016.

  1. There is great optimism and investment in Chinese tourism to Portugal

In Summer 2017, the first direct flight linking Hangzhou and Beijing to Lisbon was launched by Capital Airlines (part of the HNA group which also strong links with TAP). Turismo de Portugal is taking part in the 2018 EU China-Tourism year, with activities including a 5-city Chinese roadshow in December 2017.

  1. Portugal has the Golden Visa Scheme

Over 80% of the applicants for Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme offering residence rights to property investors, are Chinese. Between 2012-14, Chinese buyers invested €1.74 billion into Portuguese property.

  1. There are strong links between the two countries

There are around 15,000 Portuguese descendants living in Macau, a former Portuguese colony, and Portuguese influences remain in the territory. Capital Airlines is planning to introduce feeder flights from Macau to the Lisbon flight to cater for them.

  1. Chinese visitors are great for Portugal

As well as benefiting the economy, the Chinese have different national holidays to many other source markets; a chance for Portugal to fill its hotels in February for Chinese New Year, and in early October during Golden Week, as well as during the more traditional summer months.

  1. Portugal has what the Chinese want

Historic cities, beautiful river cruises, traditional food and wine, and 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus the coastlines of the Algarve, the clean air and nature of the Azores and Madeira – Portugal has all the elements the new generation of independent
Chinese travellers are looking for in a holiday.

 

China Travel Outbound works with travel and tourism brands in Portugal, including Eco Tours Portugal and the luxury family
resort hotel group, Martinhal. If you would like to find out more about how to market your Portuguese tourism brand in China, please contact us at
[email protected] or visit our website www.chinatraveloutbound.com

Get Ready for Golden Week

Golden Week is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, a week-long holiday that happens annually at the beginning of October. Traditionally, the Chinese flock in their droves (589 million to be precise) throughout China via train and by car, visiting domestic tourism attractions such as Beijing’s Forbidden City which sold 166 tickets per minute during last year’s festivities. However, times are changing and Chinese tourists are turning their attention to international travel during their week off work.

In 2016, it is thought that a record 6 million Chinese nationals opted to travel overseas for their holiday. Not only are they venturing abroad, they also have money burning holes in their pockets, in 2015 the Chinese spent $180billion abroad. Europe is seen as a favourable destination due to the ability to claim tax back, in the UK goods are almost 30% cheaper than Chinese high street prices because Chinese tourists can reclaim the VAT they’ve spent and taxes on luxury items are lower.

Attract a new market in a quiet period

2018, has been announced as the year for EU-Chinese tourism and, the spotlight is firmly placed on links between Europe and China. As relationships start to strengthen, the number of visiting Chinese should start to multiply. Europe needs to find ways to entice tourists in the off-peak seasons, and adding Golden week to the roster alongside Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter maybe the perfect way. Golden Week is all about shopping to excess, and the European high streets, and particularly the gift shops, could really benefit from this shopping extravaganza in the post-summer, pre-Christmas lull.

Exchange rates have an impact

Golden Week 2016 saw sterling at the lowest it had been in 10 years, meaning the UK was 10% better value for money than it had been in 2015, enticing Chinese tourists to dig deep and spend, spend, spend. The UK saw a +58% rise year-on-year in Chinese Tax free shopping during Golden Week last year; fuelled not only by the post Brexit exchange rates, but also by dedicated promotions on travel websites such as Ctrip. This steady rise has seen stores such as Gieves and Hawkes on Saville Road benefit from the kind of shameless spending that Golden Week promotes.

So how many Chinese tourists will travel to Europe for Golden Week in 2017? Well, sterling has made a slight come back so the UK isn’t quite so cheap. In October 16, tourists could expect to receive around £0.12 for their Renminbi, where today (August 17), they would receive slightly less – around £0.115, but this is still a good rate in comparison to previous years. Looking at the euro, last year the Renminbi would have bought you €0.136 to splash out in the designer boutiques of the Champs-Elysees, but today that same Renminbi may only take you to Printemps, with a rate of €0.127. So the Chinese will get around 6% less for their money in the Eurozone this year, and around 4% less in the UK.

More importantly, perhaps, will be the response of the Chinese to the recent terrorist attacks in the UK. In the wake of the Paris attacks in 2015, Paris saw a drop of approximately 30% to the city . But, anecdotally, we have heard that the terrorist attacks in the UK received less media coverage in China so perhaps the impact will not be so deeply felt. Let’s hope so.

Are you ready with a Chinese cashless payment solution?

Another important factor for Chinese shoppers, is the availability of Chinese cashless solutions, such as AliPay, Union Pay and WeChat Pay. The might of Alipay is incontestable, more than 250,000 Chinese tourists visited Britain in 2015, and during this period the spend on Alipay topped £586.22 million. The mighty Tencent has brought WeChat Pay to Europe this year, and we can’t wait to see what effect this will have on Golden Week 2017.

Here’s hoping for a golden October.

 

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Is the rise of Chinese travel to the UK unstoppable?

It’s hardly a secret that Chinese tourists stay longer (twice as long) and spend more (3½ times more) than the average visitor to the UK. This long-staying, high-spending market is moving up every tourism provider’s priority list as the value of China’s growing outbound travel market – which already stood at 120 million in 2016 – becomes abundantly clear.

Chinese tourism to the UK increased by +10% in Q4 2016 – and this after a record-breaking 2015. Early indications point to another very healthy year in 2017: May saw an increase of 31% of bookings by Chinese tour operators to London, while the capital’s luxury quarter saw a 39% increase in tax-free shopping for designer clothes, handbags and jewellery in the same period.

Is the rise of Chinese travel to the UK unstoppable? There are plenty of reasons to think so…

The Chinese are flush with hidden money and they’re ready to travel

It turns out that the Chinese travelling middle classes have even more money to spend than the headlines suggest. The government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing recently declared that that estimates of household income have undervalued real income by up to 20% through omitting to measure household investments. And we can expect plenty of that income to be spent on travel; a recent report by Sabre found that 90% of Chinese travellers expect to travel more often in the future.

Travel is increasingly the norm and an expected activity for Chinese, which means not just more Chinese travelling, but an increasingly independent, experience-seeking market in search of destinations, hotels, visitor attractions and activities which will genuinely differentiate their holiday from the norm.

The revolutionary rise in independent travel

As new waves of Chinese outbound tourists take to the skies, independent travel is taking off too, especially amongst Chinese millennials. By some measures, around 40% of Chinese outbound tourists travel independently. English-speaking countries are naturally-preferred long-haul destinations since they present fewer language challenges than other nations.

Self-drive tourism, camping & caravanning, and adventure travel are all trending travel segments in China, helping to distribute Chinese tourists and their largesse more widely in destination nations.

The Chinese love spending money in the UK

Chinese visitors to the UK spend £2,174 on average during their stay – more than 3 ½ times more than the average tourist. They spend twice as much time in the UK as the average tourist too – averaging 15 nights vs the average 8 nights.

Encouraging even more spend in the UK is the proliferation of Chinese payment options including UnionPay. The heavyweight retail early adopters long ago proved the value of accepting UnionPay. Harrods introduced 75 China UnionPay terminals in 2011 and has since seen an increase in sales to Chinese tourists of +40%; by 2015, Harrods took £1 for every £5 spent by Chinese tourists in the UK. In 2011, the Ritz became the first London hotel to install China UnionPay terminals, a pioneering move which paid off handsomely with a 17% increase in Chinese guests and 25% rise in spending.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s average sale in the shop via UnionPay is 3.7 times higher than the average.

Brexit and the increasing strength of the renminbi

Record numbers of overseas tourists visited the UK in April as the fall in sterling made the UK very good value – a positive Brexit side-effect for inbound tourism. The UK is already a particularly attractive destination for the Chinese to spend their holiday money; Chinese visitors to London spend twice as much time and twice as much money as they do in mainland Europe, greatly benefitting the capital’s luxury goods sellers. So continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit may actually offer a continuing positive pull to Chinese tourists.

Even Brexit itself seems unlikely to be a deterrent to Chinese tourists visiting, with no new visa requirements since the UK is already outside the Schengen visa zone.

The powerful allure of the UK

VisitBritain has invested heavily in China over recent years. The GREAT names for GREAT Britain campaign in 2014 generated 30 million views of the campaign video and 2 million visits to the campaign website – as well as such memorable monikers as ‘Big White Streaker’ (for the Cerne Abbas Giant) and ‘The Strong-man Skirt Party’ (for the Highland Games). VisitBritain’s recent +56partnership with Alitrip, Alibaba Group’s tourism arm, has created a virtual British marketplace to showcase UK tourist offerings and great British experiences and destinations to Chinese consumers.

And VisitBritain is building on a very strong base of traveller interest. The Chinese rate “a rich and interesting heritage and history” very highly as a travel motivation and this is one of many areas in which the UK excels. “Romance” and “the beauty of the landscape” also feature highly both in Chinese motivations for travel and as qualities which the Chinese ascribe to the UK. And there are plenty of current British qualities are tempting the Chinese to these shores, from the Royal Family, Downton Abbey and Premier League football to designer shopping and Harry Potter. Not to mention the apparently irresistible charm of Curly Fu and Peanut.

The early, concerted and continuing promotion of the UK in China by VisitBritain has brilliantly built and consolidated the UK’s position as an aspirational destination for Chinese travellers.

Chinese friendliness is on the up in the UK

TripAdvisor China’s 2016 survey found that the UK was the most-researched European country. And the world’s most valuable tourists have plenty of reasons to make the UK their European destination of choice. Britain is increasingly welcoming to the Chinese, partly thanks to Visit Britain’s Great China Welcome initiative which has encouraged many UK destinations, hotels, visitor attractions and shops to adopt Chinese-friendly products and service.

Many London visitor attractions, including the Houses of Parliament, now offer audio guides in Mandarin, and Mandarin audio guides make up 50% of the total hired at the British Museum. Increasing numbers of Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking tour guides and shop assistants are evident, especially in London, and organisations from Great Western Railway to The Globe are undertaking Chinese-specific marketing and promotion initiatives to encourage visitors from the Middle Kingdom.

The future of Chinese travel to the UK

A progressively more Chinese-friendly UK with increasing recognition of the value of Chinese tourists is perfectly poised to keep a lion’s share of the world’s largest outbound market. And while recent terrorist incidents hardly provide the ideal backdrop for welcoming inbound tourists, even these gained favourable coverage in China, with Manchester’s homeless heroes garnering plaudits for their unselfish, typically British kind-yet-practical help.

So is the rise of Chinese tourism to the UK unstoppable? The indications are certainly pretty positive…

 

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Is Chinese New Year 2017 Set to Be the Biggest Ever?

Chinese New Year marks a time for celebration. And also, the time for travelling. To celebrate the holiday, the people of China are given a week off for the Chinese Lunar New Year Golden Week. This year, it runs from 27 January to 2 February. In the UK, our clients are preparing themselves for an influx of very welcome Chinese visitors all important to fill  beds at this off-peak time of year. But how big can we expect Chinese New Year to be this year?

To get an idea, we’ve looked at Chinese visitor numbers of previous years, the changing travel and economic landscape of the UK in recent times, and forecasts for 2017. But let’s start with past years.

2015-2016

2015 was a big year for Chinese visitors to the UK; According to VisitBritain, 270,000 people were welcomed, up by 46% from 2014. Collectively, they spent £586 million that year here in the UK, claiming a spot in the UK’s top 10 inbound markets for spending. It’s no surprise then that, according to travel intelligence company ForwardKeys, the UK ranked 4th place in the list of European destinations for Chinese travellers.

Fast forward to 2016 and Chinese visitors to the UK during Chinese New Year were up again. Not all that surprising since the estimated total number of 2016 Chinese New Year journeys reached a whopping 2.91 billion. Yet 2016 was also characterised by widespread fear of terrorism for much of Europe, resulting in a Europe-wide fall of 7.4% in visitor numbers. Perhaps fuelled by safety concerns around France and Germany, London was up by 7.8% and Manchester by 27%.

Britain’s Travel and Economic Landscape

Why do we think 2017 could be the UK’s biggest ever Chinese New Year? First, if you cut back to this time last year, Brexit seemed highly unlikely. From January to June 2016, the British Pound to Chinese Yuan averaged between 9.3 and 9.4. Now? The Pound to Yuan average is around 8.5. The combination of a weak pound and a large Chinese luxury market surely means that UK shopping has never been more desirable. At least Beiwei 55, a tour operator specialising in the Chinese market to the UK, thinks so. It says the UK is becoming an increasingly affordable destination for Chinese visitors which may be why last year’s summer season saw a 40% increase in Chinese tourist numbers. Cheaper luxury products and the time to buy them are a winning combination, making Golden Week the perfect time for the Chinese to visit the UK.

Not only that but access to Britain has never been easier. Over the past year, the number of direct flights between the two countries has increased. Summer 2017 will see Hainan Airlines service new direct routes to London from Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xi’an, Qingdao and Changsha. This is in addition to their previously launched direct flight from Beijing to Manchester. Ease of travel combined with a cheap holiday destination should encourage Chinese tourists to travel to the UK and send those visitor numbers soaring. Hopefully 2017 will reflect this and be the biggest year for Chinese New Year in the UK yet.

Chinese New Year 2017

Recent studies are showing signs of this already. EChinanews forecasts that the number of total journeys (including domestic) predicted to be made for 2017’s Chinese New Year is 3 billion, a 0.9 billion rise from 2016.

ForwardKeys study also shows positive UK inbound statistics for Chinese New Year 2017. Compared to the same time last year, bookings to Europe are ahead by 68.5% with the UK actually up by 88%. A phenomenal figure! The UK now ranks in 2nd place for Chinese visitors to Europe; a nice 2-place climb from 2015. This week, VisitBritain announced that the number of Chinese visitors in January is up a whopping 80% compared to last January, with bookings focused around the Chinese New Year at the end of the month. As Jo Leslie, VisitBritain, was quoted in the Evening Standard this week, ‘Chinese tourists in London spend twice as long as they do in mainland Europe, spend twice as much money and the numbers are growing at twice the rate.’ London is putting on a huge spectacle with parades, markets and entertainment to celebrate Chinese culture, maintaining its position as one of the most exciting places to celebrate Chinese New Year outside Asia.

With so much going on, in the economy, the market and the fantastic celebrations in London and beyond, Britain can be very optimistic that the Chinese New Year and, indeed, the rest of the Year of the Rooster, will be the biggest yet for Chinese visitors.

 

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Get Ready for Golden Week

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More than 750 million Chinese expected to travel during October’s Golden Week

Golden Week is the single biggest holiday for the Chinese and last year saw around 750 million people – half of China’s population – hit the road. While many travel domestically, increasing numbers are using this opportunity to fulfil dreams of further-flung travel. At least 4 million Chinese travelled overseas in Golden Week in 2015 and that figure is set to be surpassed this year.

Record Golden Week spend expected in 2016

While we’re probably all relieved not to be jostling for space amongst the 12.5 million Chinese who travelled on China’s railways on just one day of Golden Week last year, the UK is preparing for a bumper week. Golden Week visits by Chinese tourists to London quadrupled in 2015 compared with 2014, and this trend is certain to continue in 2016 thanks to the recent boost in Chinese holidaymakers driven by the beneficial exchange rate. Harrods has been running Golden Week promotions for several years, offering special ‘lucky’ products, increasing its number of Mandarin-speaking staff and highlighting the holiday in its WeChat account.

Golden Week shopping promotions go global

The Chinese are by far the highest spenders of all tourists and recent research by global tax-free shopping company Global Blue found that the average Chinese holidaymaker’s shopping budget is ¥16,702 (around £1,900). It’s hardly surprising, then, that plenty of other destinations and retailers have a history of bespoke activity to attract the Chinese in Golden Week. Department stores including New York’s Macy’s, Paris’ Galeries Lafayette and Spain’s El Corte Ingles all ran special Golden Week promotions last year. El Corte Ingles partnered with luxury watchmakers to offer exclusive gifts with purchases, and publicised special offers at its flagship Castellana store in Madrid via its WeChat account. South Korea even invented its own holiday, South Korea Black Friday, to encourage Chinese tourists to shop.

Chinese overseas trips continue their unstoppable rise

Golden Week begins with China’s National Day on 1 October, the day the People’s Republic was founded in 1949. And thanks to the PRC’s economic growth and opening up over the past few years, the flow of Chinese travelling overseas continues to grow. There was a +17% increase in overseas trips organised by Chinese travel agencies in Q2 2016 and that period was also the first time that visits by mainland Chinese tourists to non-Chinese overseas destinations exceeded those to ‘Greater China’ (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), underlining the unstoppable trend towards longhaul travel.

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Should the travel industry be worried about the Chinese economy?

The Chinese economy has been all over the press recently, with the slowdown panicking some economists, who fear that the sharp fall in China’s stock prices last year could affect the global economy in 2016.

However, official figures suggest that economic growth may have stabilized at about 6.5 per cent during the end of 2015 – still nowhere near the double-digit norm prior to the crisis, but not the catastrophe predicted by some.

Let’s look at the figures. According to Forbes, the Chinese stocks rally started after the New Year holiday last year from a level of 3,229 in late February for the Shanghai Composite. After a concerning climb to almost 5,200 in June, the index was back to roughly where it started (3,209 on August 24) after six months. The Financial Times concurs. Last week, China revealed that December’s economic figures were better than expected, with fourth-quarter GDP growth marginally behind forecasts, at 6.8 per cent. The UNWTO does not expect the supposed slowdown in the Chinese economy to put a brake on the number of people looking to travel outside China.

“You need to put the slowdown in perspective, it’s a slowdown from 7 percent to 5 or 6 percent,” says John Kestor, the director of the tourist market trends program at UNWTO, adding it was a growth that many nations would be “very jealous” about.

Optimists also point to China’s affluent and expanding middle class, 136 million of whom are expected to fly internationally in 2016, and to the lucrative Chinese High Net Worth Individuals (who have investable finance of at least £650,000) who in 2015 named international travel as their most desired pursuit.

More importantly for the shift in economic structure, December retail sales growth was above the full-year trend!

All in all, the outlook is still good for Chinese outbound travel.

 

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