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Friday, October 21, 2016, 11:48

Tourists moving with the times

By Zhu Wenqian
Tourists moving with the times
Chinese Tourists take a selfie in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in central St Petersburg, Russia. In the first half of 2016, Chinese people made 59.03 million individual trips abroad, up 4.3 percent year-on-year, according to the China National Tourism Administration. ( OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP)

Chinese tourists are increasingly preferring high-quality hotels and memorable experiences when they travel abroad, reflecting their rising purchasing power and evolution of taste, travel agencies said.

For this year’s Oct 1-7 National Day holiday — the peak time for Chinese tourists’ outbound travel — prices of overseas travel packages were the same as, or slightly cheaper than, last year’s.

This year, in addition to traditional tourism hotspots, some exotic destinations have become attractive for Chinese. These include Morocco, the Middle East, East Europe and Sri Lanka, according to several travel agencies.

“Combined with the increasingly sophisticated preferences of Chinese, the National Day holiday is a perfect opportunity for travelers to head to destinations that are not possible to visit during shorter holidays or the Chinese lunar new year, which is usually a time for family reunions or other obligations,” said Alex Yan, chief operating officer of Tuniu Corp, an online travel agency based in Nanjing, in East China’s Jiangsu province.

Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have emerged as the top destinations for Chinese this month. Typically, travelers squeeze in a few days more to have extended vacations like 10-day trips, according to Qyer, a Beijing-based Chinese travel information website.

“Many Chinese travelers choose to take advantage of the long holiday and go to some countries that are relatively far from China. The United States and Oceania countries are preferred by independent visitors, as they are suitable for self-driving travel,” said Zhang Qi, vice-president of Qyer.

The number of Chinese who visited the US during this year’s National Day holiday rose threefold on the back of the easing of tourist visa procedures.

A report by Lvmama, an online travel service provider, attributed the rise to the fact that China and the US had agreed to grant each other’s citizens 10-year multiple-entry visas.

Du Ni, 27, an office worker in Beijing, planned to go to Hawaii during the break. She said she wanted to go to a tropical island for vacation and found that the flight and hotel package of Hawaii seemed cost-effective.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to apply for a 10-year US visa, so that it would be easier and more convenient for me to go there again in the future,” Du said.

Japan, South Korea and some Southeast Asian countries remain popular among Chinese travelers, thanks to their geographical proximity, cheaper packages and favorable visa policies.

Tourists moving with the times
Chinese Travellers buy local products at a store in Jeju island in South Korea. Jeju is one of the most popular travel destinations for Chinese visitors. (Wang Gang / China Daily)
In recent months, the yuan’s depreciation against the yen increased the cost of Japan trips for Chinese travelers. Still, Japan remains one of the hottest destinations for Chinese.

“Tourists travel to a place because they are interested in that place, and they are able to find a package within their budget. While currency exchange-rate changes do affect the cost of a trip, their impact is marginal. And tourists intent on visiting a particular country will do so, no matter what,” said Yan from Tuniu.

With more and more Chinese travelers seeking diverse experiences overseas, some uncommon destinations are receiving attention.

For instance, Hakone in Japan and Panay Island in the Philippines hosted a large number of Chinese tourists during the National Day holiday, according to TripAdvisor, a leading travel review website.

On the other hand, terror attacks in Europe and elsewhere have dented sales of tours to destinations there. In particular, France, Germany and Turkey were expected to receive fewer Chinese travelers in October.

During the May-July period, online searches by users of Qyer for France and Turkey declined sharply year-on-year.

In July alone, sales of Qyer’s tours to Turkey tumbled 59 percent year-on-year. But the impact of each new terror attack on travel sales is decreasing.

Although Chinese travelers are turning cautious on certain trips, travel agencies said they are confident that Europe will remain a popular destination in the long term, given its rich culture and unique travel resources.

In the first half of 2016, Chinese people made 59.03 million individual trips abroad, up 4.3 percent year-on-year, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

Those aged between 25 and 34, followed by those aged between 35 and 44, accounted for about 80 percent of the outbound Chinese tourists. Most of them preferred self-guided or free-and-easy tours, and focused on a few sites rather than visiting a lot of places, a report by the China Tourism Academy said.

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