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China’s outbound tourism boom continues new year

Shanghai immigration was a busy place the day after the New Year’s holiday break. Airport exit-entry officers handled 100 thousand people the first day after the holidays, almost 20 percent more than normal, as more and more Chinese travelers are choosing to spend their vacations overseas. A word to those immigration officers: the numbers are only going to continue to grow in 2016.

Major Chinese online travel agencies are talking about double-digit growth in the number of people taking their vacations overseas. Tuniu.com and LY.com say between 30 and 35 percent of their bookings are for overseas trips, while foreign bookings on Ctrip grew this year by nearly 30 percent to around 70 percent.

“Good exchange rates is one factor affecting tourism. This is what made travel destinations like Japan, Australia and Russia popular last year. The second factor is visas. The fact that visa applications are getting easier and quicker for some places is also a big factor,” said Zhang Hui, manager of Public Affairs Department, CTRIP.

Last year’s Chinese New Year saw the number of outbound tourists from the Chinese Mainland exceeded the number of domestic travelers for the very first time. However, Ctrip expects to see this occurring more often from now on, as people increasingly look for better value from their holidays.

“A group trip to Thailand costs three, four thousand yuan, cheaper than one to Yunan,” said a man named Zhu Liming.

“I can extend the three-day-holiday with my annual leave and travel overseas,” said a woman named Qiao Huiling.

To cater to the growing demand of Chinese outbound tourists, travel agencies are offering more travel products and more value-added services to win themselves bonus points. However, one industry expert says the continued growth of China’s outbound tourism market will need more than this.

“People in the tourism industry at the travel destinations have benefited from China’s growing outbound tourism market, but the growing number of tourists may have also have disturbed the local communities. So from that aspect, the travel destination may not be well prepared for more tourists. The benefits of the tourism business should be shared with the wider community so they can better understand the value of Chinese tourism,” said Wang Yonggang, associate Professor of Department of Tourism, Fudan University.

For three years in a row, China has been the world’s biggest outbound tourism market. In 2014, the number of outbound tourists exceeded 100 million and that number is estimated to have grown by over 16 percent last year.