Chinese outbound tourists’ spending to boost economic growth of overseas destinations
Published: Apr 29, 2024 10:15 PM Updated: Apr 29, 2024 11:30 PM
Staff members welcome Chinese tourists at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 25, 2023. Thailand extended a warm welcome to the first batch of visa-exempt flights from China on Monday, marking the launch of the nation's fresh initiative to reinvigorate its Chinese tourist market. (Photo: Xinhua)

Staff members welcome Chinese tourists at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 25, 2023. Thailand extended a warm welcome to the first batch of visa-exempt flights from China on Monday, marking the launch of the nation's fresh initiative to reinvigorate its Chinese tourist market. (Photo: Xinhua)

Global hot tourist destinations will welcome a large number of Chinese tourists during the upcoming May Day holidays from May 1 to May 5. The return of Chinese tourists will greatly boost local economic growth through travel spending, analysts said, noting that China, with its growing consumption power, remains a major contributor to global growth.

China is one of the largest tourist sources and host countries in the world, and the expected boom in China's outbound and inbound tourism will continue to play a crucial role in the economic recovery of global tourism, industry observers said.

On several travel platforms, outbound travel bookings for the May Day holidays increased significantly, even on the high base set last year, with some services witnessing an increase of nearly 100 percent.

Bookings for international hotels, air tickets, car rentals and other bookings have far exceeded that during the May Day holidays in 2023, according to a report by Fliggy, a domestic travel platform under Alibaba, sent to the Global Times. 

So far, the number of outbound cruise trip bookings has increased by more than 16 times year-on-year, and the products of some routes have been sold out on Fliggy. Ticket bookings for overseas amusement parks and scenic spots grew more than 90 percent. 

Meanwhile, there has been a rapid increase in bookings for local travel experiences, such as snorkelling in Thailand's Similan Islands to see the underwater world and hot air balloon rides in Turkey, on Fliggy.

Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the US, France, Vietnam and other countries are among the hottest outbound destinations for Chinese tourists during the May Day holidays, according to a report by Group sent to the Global Times.

Thanks to the resumption of international routes and the improvement of flight supply, the outbound travel cost performance is higher than the May Day holidays in 2023.  The per capita purchase price of international air tickets fell by 19 percent year-on-year on Fliggy.

Many airliners have announced an increase in capacity for international routes. China Southern Airlines has launched a new route from Beijing Daxing International Airport to Riyadh and increased the frequency of flights between Beijing's Daxing and Macao to once a day. China Eastern Airlines has resumed the route from Daxing to Kuala Lumpur, while China United Airlines plans to open international routes to Russia, Japan and South Korea during the peak season. South Korea's Jeju Airlines has settled in Daxing airport, providing more choices for passengers.

The Global Times learned from Beijing Daxing International Airport that the average number of daily inbound and outbound passenger trips at the airport is expected to exceed 14,000 during the May Day holidays. 

Global tourism market boosted

Chinese outbound and inbound tourism is expected to accelerate in 2024, due to visa facilitation and improved air capacity, according to a forecast report released in January by UN Tourism, a United Nations agency responsible for tourism.

On Monday, China's Embassy in Georgia announced that the mutual visa waiver agreement between the two countries will come into effect on May 28, expanding the number of China's visa-free partners.

So far, China has concluded visa-free agreements with more than 150 countries covering different passports. 

Since the beginning of 2024, China's tourism sector has soared compared with the average level of the international market, and there are great expectations both at home and abroad for China's tourism market, analysts noted.

According to a forecast by the China Tourism Academy, the number of outbound trips by Chinese tourists will reach 130 million in 2024. 

This figure is close to the number of Chinese outbound tourist trips in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, which stood at 155 million. 

Chinese tourists spent $133.8 billion on outbound tourism in 2019, with per capita consumption of $863, ranking first in the world in outbound tourism expenditure, accounting for 23.8 percent of global total, according to statistics from UN Tourism.

Analysts said that China could regain the crown of tourism expenditure in 2024. The 2019 figures clearly show why global tourism markets are eager for the return of Chinese tourists. China remains an engine and a contributor to global economic growth. 

According to official data, China's contribution to global economic growth is approximately 30 percent, underscoring the country's central role in the world's economic system.

"With their strong spending power, Chinese outbound tourists will significantly boost the global tourism market," Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Wang also noted that tourism is not a one-time consumption activity, and will drive the development of a series of related industries, such as catering, entertainment and retail. 

"This spillover effect can further magnify the driving role of tourism on economic growth through consumption," said Wang.

Momentum of consumption

Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times that consumer spending could hit a new high during the May Day holidays in China, boosted by several shopping festivals and trade-in activities, which will further boost the country's economic growth.

"Consumption is a key link in domestic economic circulation and an important engine of economic growth," Zhang Lingyun, a member of the academic committee of the China Tourism Academy, told the Global Times on Monday.

Experts said that there is still potential for further growth in consumption after a nearly 5 percent growth in the first quarter, and the momentum of consumption will provide new impetus to the economic growth of the world's second-largest economy and refute "Peak China" narrative hyped by some Western observers and media.

According to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), China's total retail sales of consumer goods rose 4.7 percent year-on-year to 12.03 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) in the first quarter of 2024, indicating a steady expansion in consumption after a surge during the Spring Festival holidays in February.

"What boosted China's strong consumption power is government policy promotion and social security. To meet people's aspirations for a better life, China is shifting to a consumption-oriented economy," said Zhang.

Analysts also pointed out that the increase in consumption reflected spending power. In the first quarter, the per capita disposable income nationwide was 11,539 yuan, a nominal increase of 6.2 percent over the same period in 2023, and a real increase of 6.2 percent after deducting price factors, according to the NBS.

The increase in disposable income comes from China's stable economy, which also explains why the yuan maintains its resilience in the foreign exchange market, while multiple currencies including the yen, won and rupee continue to depreciate against the US dollar.