China’s outbound tourism industry seems to have lost its explosive growth amid concerns including the depreciation of the yuan and a world under the shadow of terrorism.
The China Tourism Academy, a think tank under the China National Tourism Administration, forecast that the country would see 133 million outbound visits in 2016, a rise of 11 percent year-on-year.
While that is close to the 12 percent growth seen in 2015, it is down significantly from rates of 18 to 22 percent experienced from 2010 to 2012.
Zhang Lingyun, a tourism professor at Beijing Union University, said that China will continue to make rapid strides in trips and overseas consumption, but such explosive growth would not happen again.
“The deprecation of the yuan will not dampen the mainland’s outbound tourism business in the short term. However, when it comes to the long term, it’s a different story,” Zhang said.
Kuang Shi, chief analyst at BOCI International (China) Limited, used the Republic of Korea (ROK) as an example to show the negative effect posed by weaker currency on outbound tourism.
“From November 2007 to March 2008, the depreciation of the ROK won was as high as 37.4 percent. During this period, outbound visits by ROK travelers dropped by 34.9 percent,” Kuang said.
Zhang also said that terrorism is overshadowing overseas tourism destinations.
“In the past, Chinese tourists knew that they could avoid the potential risk if they didn’t go to places they were not familiar with. However, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, many began to believe the whole terrorism situation was different. Compared with other countries, the situation in China is better. China is a relatively safe place.”
At the same time, there are other factors influencing outbound tourism. Zhang said the improvement of domestic tourism products as well as more duty-free shops and diverse products would keep more Chinese tourists at home.
“Many would agree that China still has a profound natural and cultural heritage,” said Zhang. “After I visited Yellowstone National Park in the United States, I would say we also have such magnificent natural scenery in China. One of the reasons behind the outbound boom is the lack of proper facilities, tourism products and services in China.”
Zhang said the domestic tourism industry has been forced to adapt to the fast-changing market and more “picky” tourists.
Overseas consumption is the same story. Zhang said that many Chinese shopped overseas because of lower prices or product availability. This situation would also change if more duty-free stores opened in China.
“Chinese would not bother flying to Japan for toilet seats if they could buy the same products in China,” Zhang said.