China’s outbound tourism has witnessed great developments since the reform and opening-up policy was adopted in 1978.
Jiang Yiyi, associate researcher at the China Tourism Academy, said the nation’s outbound tourism boom began in the early 1980s, but travel was initially limited to mainlanders who wanted to visit relatives in Hong Kong or Macau.
“It was extremely hard to meet the qualifications to visit Hong Kong or Macau back then, because applicants were required to have relatives in the destinations and they also had to submit financial statements to prove they could cover the costs themselves,” she said.
Things changed after Hong Kong and Macau were awarded “approved destination status”, or ADS, by the China Tourism Administration in 1983. The move allowed mainlanders to visit the two destinations for leisure purposes.
“In 1988, Thailand was awarded ADS, with Malaysia and Singapore following in 1990. That marked the real beginning of outbound tourism for Chinese travelers,” Jiang said.
“Outbound tourism has boomed since, but it was really at its peak in 2013 as a result of the nation’s rapid economic development and people’s growing desire to travel overseas.”
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics in September said outbound visits by Chinese travelers hit 135 million in 2016 from 5 million in 1995, and the average annual rise was about 17 percent.
The number of outbound travelers ranked ninth globally in 2003, but the nation has occupied the top slot since 2013.
The tourism administration started keeping records of outbound trips in 1992, and the following year 3.74 million Chinese traveled overseas, according to the Yearbook of China Tourism Statistics.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese made about 142 million trips overseas last year.
About 71 million overseas visits were made in the first six months of this year, a rise of 15 percent from the same period in 2017.
The future of outbound tourism is promising, according to Jiang.
“The reform and opening-up policy has produced a strong economy and raised living standards, meaning more people can afford to travel overseas. Moreover, more preferential visa policies are available,” she said.