An increasing number of Chinese tourists travel to pursue their hobbies, sightsee and experience new cultures rather than shop

By Zhang Yihua Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/6 18:53:39

Many Chinese tourists travel to Japan to watch Japanese macaques hang out in hot springs. Photo: CFP

Many Chinese tourists travel to Japan to watch Japanese macaques hang out in hot springs. Photo: CFP

After treating herself to a hot spring bath in Yudanaka, a hot spring town in Japan, 30-year-old white-collar worker Jennifer Liu could not wait to go to the nearby snow monkey park to see the famous monkeys. 

"It's amazing to see the cute Japanese macaques hanging out in the hot spring and even throwing snowballs," she said.

Liu and her husband had planned to travel to Japan since they married in 2015.

Since they rarely get their vacation at the same time, the two decided to go during Spring Festival. After getting off work on January 26, they boarded a flight to Tokyo.

According to Liu, instead of shopping which might be the main reason many Chinese tourists, especially women, visit Japan, going sightseeing and experiencing the local culture were the primary reason for her trip.

Spring Festival has become an opportunity for Chinese to travel abroad, and according to a February 2 Xinhua News Agency report, Chinese tourists travel to foreign countries to learn about different cultures rather than shop. Liu and her husband are among such Chinese travel aficionados.

Many Chinese tourists travel to foreign countries to sightsee and experience the local culture. Photo: IC

Many Chinese tourists travel to foreign countries to sightsee and experience the local culture. Photo: IC

Shifting mindset

According to the Xinhua report, after "shopping spree" became a catchphrase in 2015, increasingly more Chinese tourists prefer getting a physical checkup and experiencing the traditional Japanese culture and services to being obsessed with shopping.

Meng Fanhai, the owner of a tourism agency in Tokyo, told Xinhua that his agency arranged more than 200 physical checkups and medical treatments in 2016, up 50 percent compared with the previous year and taking up around one-third of his agency's total Chinese tourists.

Li Xuejing, the marketing manager of the agency, said in the report that Chinese tourists are becoming more willing to experience local culture and services, such as staying in private homes, viewing bonsai and watching monkeys in hot springs.

Liu conceded that she used to spend most of her overseas trips shopping because she saw them as golden opportunities to buy things that she did not have easy access to in China.

However, after visiting a few countries, such as France and Switzerland, where shopping was the main focus, she realized that she was missing the bigger picture.

"I meant to travel for fun and relaxation, but constantly rushing to buy things in different stores always made me rather tired and sometimes bored," she said.

Liu also found that after returning from her vacations, she had very few experiences worth mentioning when looking back on her holidays.

"Shopping consumed me; I did not have enough time to explore the city," she said.

So, when she planned her trip to Japan with her husband, she was determined to take their hobbies into consideration and have a more enriched holiday.

Since she and her husband are both big fans of snow sports, they put skiing on their to-do list. She also visited steamy outdoor hot springs, which are considered an important part of Japanese culture.

According to Liu, many of her friends have also shifted their interests from shopping to pursuing personal hobbies when traveling abroad.

"Some went to the Philippines simply to enjoy diving," she said.

Liu and her husband not only based their travel arrangements on their personal interests but also on cultural interaction.

They chose traditional Japanese-style inns that feature aspects of the culture, such as a low table fringed with a thick quilt with a heater underneath, known as kotatsu in Japanese, to stay in.

"We sat cross-legged with the quilt over knees," she said. "We had read some Japanese manga where the heroes napped under such a quilt, and we felt like we were living like real Japanese."

They also frequented traditional pubs to enjoy the variety of hot sake, a native rice wine, to warm themselves.

This time when Liu checked in for her flight home, she did not have overweight luggage filled with cosmetics and luxury goods, but her holiday experience was all the better for it.

"Although I did not buy a lot, I felt much more enriched," she said.

A Japanese kotatsu, a low table covered by a blanket with a heater underneath. Photo: IC

A Japanese kotatsu, a low table covered by a blanket with a heater underneath. Photo: IC

Personal growth

According to the Xinhua report, China has become the most valuable source of foreign tourists for Britain, and Chinese tourists spend three times higher than other foreign tourists on average.

Though the devaluation of the pound is a factor that ignites the enthusiasm to travel there for many Chinese, it's no longer the whole picture. Britain's rich history and famous education tradition have also caught the eyes of ordinary Chinese, said the report.

Ma Hui, a 26-year-old sales manager in Beijing, said shopping for luxury goods used to be the driving force behind his travels overseas when he was at university, but he gradually found that experiencing different cultures and developing as an individual could be more nourishing.

He has been traveling overseas with this new outlook since 2012. He visited the UK over Spring Festival. The main motivation for the trip was personal growth.

During his stay in the UK, Ma went to various schools and explored what it would be like to study there.

He also visited different museums, including the British Museum in London, and feasted his eyes on exhibitions from various regions.

"It's more of a cultural holiday for me," he said.

Ma said traveling abroad has enhanced his appreciation of the life he has in China, as he has grown more aware of and grateful for the little things in life that he had not noticed before.

For example, he explained that he did not realize how safe he felt in Beijing until he traveled outside China.

"I dare not have an argument with locals when traveling to a foreign country because I am afraid that I would not be protected," he said. "Traveling abroad helped me reevaluate what I had been taking for granted in life."

The City of London School, one of London's leading academic day schools. Some Chinese tourists visit schools when traveling to foreign countries. Photo: IC

The City of London School, one of London's leading academic day schools. Some Chinese tourists visit schools when traveling to foreign countries. Photo: IC

Embracing diversity

With industrialization and urbanization on the fast track in China, exploring natural attractions and wildlife has become popular among Chinese tourists, said the Xinhua report.

Yang Min, a co-partner of a tourism agency that specializes in receiving Chinese tourists in Kenya, said in the report that the country was unfamiliar to most Chinese in 2005. But since 2010, more and more Chinese tourists have chosen Kenya as a destination to experience biodiversity.

"During July and August, nearly 90 percent of the tourists in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve are from China," he said. "They are keen to watch the great migration here."

Zhang Renquan, a senior tourism organizer who specializes in trips to the African continent, said in the report that Chinese tourists are gradually getting familiar with African countries outside of South Africa and Egypt. They are also trying more local activities, such as going on a safari, diving and parachuting.

Ma plans to travel to the US in the fall. According to him, he has long been drawn to the natural wonders of the country, such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and the Redwood National and State Parks.

Ma said he intends to keep shopping off his list of priorities when traveling overseas and build on what he learned from previous trips.

"I cannot wait to hike the granite peaks and see the many plants and animals that are native to the Acadia National Park when I land in the US," he said.

"I am sure it is going to be an amazing trip, full of beauty and diversity."


Newspaper headline: Turning over a new leaf


Posted in: METRO BEIJING

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