China has overtaken the US and Germany as the world's biggest spenders on travel, with Chinese travellers spending US$102 billion on international travel in 2012, an increase of over 40 per cent from 2011, according to a report by Hotels.com.
According to the China Tourism Academy, China became the world's largest outbound tourism market in 2012i, overtaking Germany and the USA, with an estimated 83 million overseas trips made by Chinese citizens, rising to an astonishing 200 million by 2020. Outbound tourism has already grown by 16 per cent in the first quarter of this year to 22.6 million trips.
The second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) released recently by the global hotel booking website also reveals significant insights into the changing behaviors of Chinese travellers and how the global hotel industry is adapting.
Surveying more than 3,000 Chinese international travellers and more than 1,500 hoteliers around the world, the Hotels.com report found 75 per cent of global hoteliers say Chinese travellers now account for up to five per cent of their business.
Nearly half (45 per cent) say they have experienced an increase in Chinese guests over the last year, with the greatest increases coming in Asia Pacific (61 per cent). Hoteliers see China as a positive growth market over the next three years with one in 10 expecting to see an increase of more than 50 per cent and almost half (47 per cent) anticipating an 11-50 per cent rise.
According to the Hotels.com report, the majority of overseas Chinese travel (96 per cent) has been for leisure purposes, while just over half (52 per cent) have also visited other countries for business or education.
In a growing trend, nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of Chinese travellers say they prefer to travel independently and not as part of a group. This development was confirmed by the hoteliers surveyed, who say 70 per cent of Chinese guests now travel independently, compared with a much more even split in 2012.
"The 2013 Chinese International Travel Monitor shows that the move to independent travel identified in the last year's report is now preferred by the majority of Chinese travellers," said Johan Svanstrom, managing director of Hotels.com Asia Pacific. "While in-roads have been made in this area, governments will have to take this into account when organising their visa application infrastructure and processes."
Against this trend, the report showed that just over half (56 per cent) of hotels globally have invested less than $10,000 in developing programmes and products specifically catered to Chinese guests over the past 12 months.
"These insights highlight the need for hoteliers to adapt their marketing strategies, with a particular focus on online and social media channels, to attract Chinese travellers," said Svanstrom. "While the CITM shows hoteliers are making positive steps towards catering to an increasingly mobile and savvy Chinese travel market, it also shows the need for the global hotel industry to adapt facilities and services to more extensively cater to the world's largest market of travellers."