Outbound tourism maintains growth

By Chen Dujuan Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-15 0:50:05

China's outbound travel market maintained strong growth momentum in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, but a transformation is needed to achieve quality development in the sector, experts and insiders told an outbound tourism forum in Beijing Thursday.

The number of outbound travelers in China grew by 22.85 percent year-on-year to 70.25 million in 2011, and the figure rose by 20 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012 to about 19 million. The number is expected to rise to 100 million by 2015, according to the China Outbound Tourism Yearbook 2012 released by the China Association of Travel Services and Ivy Alliance Tourism Consulting Co Thursday.

Besides stable growth in per-capita income and GDP, the increasing strength of the yuan has enhanced the purchasing power of Chinese tourists by 6 percent in the eurozone and 10 percent in the US in 2011 compared to the previous year, said Wang Xinjun, managing director of Ivy Alliance Tourism Consulting Co and author of the yearbook.

A relaxation of some destination countries' visa policies has also helped to increase China's outbound tourism numbers, said Wang.

The US has shortened the visa application process since February, increasing the number of Chinese tourists to the US by 30 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012. Japan and South Korea have also offered more favorable visa policies for Chinese travelers since last year.

But despite its strong growth, outbound tourism in China faces various problems, said Long Wei, an official with the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).

"Many travel agencies fall into price wars, rather than competing in terms of optimized product structure and service quality, so they need a transformation from providing low-cost products with poor services to diversified and high-quality products."

China's outbound tourism has developed from a very low level over the last two decades and there is still demand for low-cost tourism products, but travel agencies have the responsibility to provide good products and guide the sector toward healthy development, Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, told the Global Times.

Dai also noted that transnational tourism supervision needs to be strengthened to protect Chinese tourists. He said his academy would publish satisfaction rankings for international destinations receiving Chinese tourists from January 2013.

Long said the CNTA has started a program to recommend good outbound tourism suppliers and improve the quality of travel services.

Low-quality tours hurt both consumers and the reputation of travel agencies, said Chen Wenjie, vice president of China Travel Service. "A change toward rising popularity in independent travel and personalized tours is on the way."


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