Chinese travelers set off lanterns to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year in a hotel in Los Angeles, US, early this year.[Photo/Xinhua]
Experience, rising disposable incomes and increase in available travel options are making variety-craving Chinese tourists very discerning, and adept at trip planning.
They are aware of seasonal changes and the travel opportunities they bring, prompting leading travel agencies to come up with customized routes.
According to Ctrip.com International Ltd, China’s largest online travel agency, winter skiing trips are a big hit among Chinese tourists. Places such as Yabuli, Changbai Mountain and Mohe in northeastern China are popular among skiing enthusiasts this year.
Given Chinese tourists’ preference for outbound trips, skiing resorts like Hokkaido in Japan have also become popular winter destinations. So have coastal cities such as Sanya of Hainan province and Xiamen of Fujian province. Islands in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia have always been popular among Chinese tourists.
Of late, Australia in the southern hemisphere has emerged a go-to place for Chinese tourists, thanks to the depreciating Australian dollar and cheaper travel products. This year, tour prices were down 5 percent on-year, according to Ctrip.
Sun Chaoying, 43, a securities firm manager in Shanghai, booked a two-week trip to Australia two months before the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Feb 8 in 2016. Together with her family, Sun plans to leave for Sydney on Feb 10.
“Although Shanghai has been quite warm this winter, the weather in Australia is much more pleasant at this time of the year. More importantly, the air is so much better. We can take a break there while breathing in some fresh air. The situation in Shanghai is not much better than Beijing,” she said.
For some smog-weary Chinese travelers, the prospect of pollutant-free air has become the raison d’etre for overseas travel. That’s not all. Even travel products tout fresh air to tourists based in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, according to Ctrip.
So, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States and Mauritius are now popular destinations for air-minded Chinese tourists. Besides, Japan, the top destination for Chinese tourists, is also preferred for its fresh air. Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa are expected to receive the biggest chunk of Chinese tourists this winter.
“Travel for fresh air” is just one of the many trends seen in recent years. The last three seasons have been marked by domestic self-guided tours around the one-week National Day holiday in October, which is usually the peak travel time, statistics from the China National Tourism Administration suggest.
Thanks to the advent of modern expressways, a large number of Chinese tourists choose to drive to neighboring places and back these days. Then there are those who love high-speed train travel, especially given the convenient inter-connections on routes, said Xue Beibei, a senior travel analyst at Nanjing-based Huatai Securities Co.
Summer is family trip time, according to Ctrip. Summer camps overseas are becoming popular. Some 73 percent of the parents who went on family trips in the past summer chose overseas summer camps.
In this regard, Australia is the No 1 destination, followed by the US, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Parents in Shanghai appear to welcome such overseas camps. Some 62 percent of the camp tourists came from Shanghai this year, followed by those from Beijing and Guangdong province.
Flower is the buzzword for travel during the spring. During March and April this year, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Yangzhou were the most popular cities among tourists.
Wuyuan in East China’s Jiangxi province is visited a lot during late March as tourists descend to appreciate the beauty of hectares of rape flowers. Similarly, Wuhan of Hubei province enjoys a two-week glory period every year as its cherry blossoms bloom.
Travel agencies are ever alert to cash in on such opportunities for short-time tours as not everyone is able to travel all the way to Japan, by far the best place for enjoying sights of cherry blossoms.
According to Ctrip, from late March to late April, nearly 350,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Japan just to drink in the sights of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Their number had more than doubled since 2014, and their consumption in Japan this year was estimated at 7 billion yuan ($1.08 billion).
With the visa application procedures of various countries getting simplified in 2015, outbound travel has increased exponentially. It transpires tourists in Beijing are the most efficient, in terms of taking off right after buying trip products online, according to Ctrip. They are followed by tourists from Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu.