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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Record breaking overseas travel during this year’s Chinese Spring Festival

Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the biggest public holiday in China, lasting from the 1st to 15th day of the first lunar month. Whilst traditionally, this holiday is spent at home with closest family, recent years have shown a dramatic shift in the observance of this festival. Of the 300 million Chinese who travelled during the holiday (most migrating from China’s super-sized cities to the suburbs where their relatives live), a record six million travelled overseas, according to the nation’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip.com.

“Outbound tourism surged this Spring Festival and the number of outbound travellers that we handled tripled last year’s total” said Lui Qing, vice-president of Tongcheng Network Technology Co Ltd, China’s third largest online travel agency, based in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

Zhang Han, a 31 year old resident of Beijing who went to Thailand with his wife and parents over the holiday argues that outbound travel is the new Spring Festival tradition, claiming that his parents were surprisingly enthusiastic. His 56 year old father said “It’s a win-win plan for us since we can be with family and my son can travel.” This year’s top 10 destinations for Chinese outbound travel during Spring Festival were Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Indonesia, the Maldives, France, Italy, Vietnam and Singapore, according to China Daily.

 

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We asked our Director in Beijing, Vivienne Song about how she’ll celelebrating Chinese New Year!

With the Year of the Monkey around the corner, we wanted to find out how the people of Beijing would be gearing up for the festivities! We asked China Travel Outbound’s Vivienne Song, to tell us how she will be celebrating this year.

Hi Vivienne! How are you going to be celebrating Chinese New Year this year?

The 7 day long holiday allows us time to spend with our parents, as both my husband and I are not originally from Beijing and so our parents live in other cities.

How are your friends/ family celebrating?

Similarly to at Thanksgiving, most Chinese will return back to their hometown to celebrate the New Year with family. For married women, you would normally be expected to follow your husband to spend the holiday with his family.

Chinese New Year is really about family gathering, visiting relatives and having dinner together.  Before, there were many traditions, like lighting fireworks and making traditional delicacies, but now due to the air pollution many places are prohibiting fireworks, and more and more families are choosing to go restaurants instead of making dinner at home.

The kids definately have the most fun; they get dressed up in new clothes, and collect Hong Bao (red packets containing money) from relatives. Normally, the relatives who are already married give Hong Bao to the kids.

What sort of gifts are you buying your family this year?

Every year I buy different gifts for my parents and parents-in-law, something like jewellery or a new ipad. This year I bought them an air cleaner for both car and home use, as we had terrible air pollution this winter.

What is your favourite part of New Year’s celebrations in China?

The best thing about this week is doing nothing but being a kid again!

What sort of things go on in Beijing?

There is a temple fair of folk custom, a very old tradition in Beijing, where they sell all kinds of New Year stuff and local delicacies. It’s quite like a Christmas market.

What (if anything) makes celebrating ‘the Year of the Monkey’ different than in other years?

Well, there’s really no difference. Only the Year of the Dragon tends to be more of a topic in China, since we always call ourselves ‘the descendants of the Dragon’.

 

Thanks Vivienne!

Xin Nian Kuai Le sing nee-ann koo-why ler (Happy New Year) to all our Chinese friends

China celebrates the start of the "Year of the Monkey" toady!