Country initiatives targeting outbound Chinese travelers

Japan

The number of Chinese travelers visiting Japan increased by 27 per cent in 2016 compared with 2015, up from 4,993,689 to 6,372,948, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Chinese travelers ranked number 1 for inbound tourists to Japan in both 2015 and 2016, up from third place in 2014.   

Japanese tourist businesses and hotels have been offering new services to cater to the large shift in the preference by Chinese travelers for authentic Japanese experiences such as farm stays and Japanese cuisine rather than shopping. Omotenashi – the Japanese spirit of selfless hospitality - is attractive to Chinese travelers and is possibly driving inbound tourist numbers. A number of hotels have also been employing Chinese staff to offer specialized service to travelers.1   

An increasing number of businesses are offering cashless payment to cater to foreign visitors who prefer to pay by credit cards and electronic money. In addition, more hotels and other businesses are upgrading their technology so they can accept Chinese preferred methods of payment such as UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay.2   

Accommodation near cultural sites, such as temples and shrines, is being developed by companies such as construction company Sekisui House to cater specifically for Chinese and other visitors.3   

From 21st April 2017, visa requirements for Chinese travelers visiting Japan were eased. The major changes include:   

Multiple-entry visas to applicants with sufficient financial capability   

Valid for 3 years and allowing a stay of up to 30 days for each visit (initial visit is limited to sightseeing only)   

Expansion of multiple-entry to Tohoku region from 3 to 6 prefectures. The requirement for a travel history to Japan within the past 3 years has also been removed for applicants with a certain level of financial capability   

Relaxation of multiple-entry visas for individuals with substantially high incomes   

Simplified application procedures for single-entry visas for individual tourists with gold credit cards   

Australia

The number of Chinese travelers visiting Australia increased by 17 per cent in 2016 compared with 2015, up from 1,024,000 to more than 1.2 million.4 The number of inbound Chinese visitors has steadily increased each year since 2011 when 490,000 travelers visited Australia. China ranks second to New Zealand for inbound traveler numbers and is slowly catching up, while the UK remains in third position and is growing at a slower rate than China, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   

Tourism Australia has run a number of campaigns and strategies to drive inbound Chinese tourism as part of its China 2020 Strategic Plan. In 2017 it has been running a large-scale campaign in China, including promotional videos on massive screens at subway lines in Beijing and other cities. The campaign includes a new Chinese-language version of the Australia.cn website. As part of the 2020 Strategic Plan there are now more Chinese speaking staff and Chinese menus at hotels and Chinese signage at airports.   

In 2016, Alipay and Commonwealth Bank of Australia agreed to work together to allow Chinese tourists and students in Australia to use Alipay to buy goods in Australian stores. The deal with Alipay means the Chinese mobile payment application would be available on CBA’s point-of-sale platforms, allowing Chinese consumers to make purchases without having to pay currency conversion fees. Choice Hotels Asia has also partnered with China’s biggest online travel agency, Ctrip, which will allow Chinese tourists to find, book and stay at any of Choice’s 230 Australian properties.5   

Chinese millennials are seeking the type of experience they can’t have at home and this is leading them to seek immersive experiences rather than more conventional tours. They view Australia as a must-see destination, and are looking for quintessentially Australian experiences – beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, farms and the outback and quokkas on Rottnest Island.6

As of February 2017 incoming Chinese visitors will be able to apply for visas online and track their application status.7 A new 10-year visa allowing multiple entries into Australia will be launched in 2017, with the visa to be trialed first amongst Chinese travelers.8 Additionally, student visa categories are being reduced from 8 to 2, to make it easier for Chinese students to study in Australia.9

New Zealand

Chinese travellers make up New Zealand’s second largest inbound tourist market with nearly 400,000 visiting New Zealand in 2016.10  

A number of Initiatives from airlines and Tourism New Zealand have driven Chinese tourist numbers:  

There are now 36 direct flights between China and New Zealand per week, up from 14 a week in 2013. China Southern Airlines has moved to double daily services between Auckland and Guangzhou11  

A contract between Tourism NZ and Amway China, signed in 2016, will see Amway’s top sales people flown to New Zealand as a reward for hard work. The tourists will arrive into Queenstown in groups of 500 and the impacts are already being felt, with early indications suggesting Queenstown had been busier in 2016 than 201512  

Some hotels have increased services specifically catering to Chinese travelers. For example, Accor has Optimum Service Standards at a range of hotels, catering to Chinese visitors. This service includes particular foods as part of the breakfast buffet, Chinese speaking reception staff, Chinese language TV and newspapers, concierge assistance and other services. It also includes training and education of front-line hotel staff about the cultural background of China and the specific needs of Chinese guests.13  

According to Tourism New Zealand forecasts, there is an increasing proportion of free and independent travelers (FITs) from the Chinese market. These visitors tend to stay much longer than visitors on group shopping tours.  

Hong Kong

The number of visitors from mainland China to Hong Kong decreased by 6.7 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to statistics from the Hong Kong Tourist Board. Despite this slight decrease, China still ranks top in terms of number of visitor arrivals, accounting for 75.5% of overall visitor arrivals.14 In 2013 there were 40,745,000 (+16.7% on the previous year), in 2014 47,247,675 (+16%) and in 2015 45,852,360 (-3%).15   

The Hong Kong Tourism Board is dedicating 24 per cent of its 2017-2018 marketing budget allocated for driving overnight arrivals to promoting Hong Kong to visitors from mainland China. The Board launched the “Best of all, it’s in Hong Kong” campaign in 2016 to further promote Hong Kong’s diverse and unique tourism appeal in mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. The campaign is ongoing in 2017. Due to the popularity of online shopping in mainland China, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has also been running the “Hong Kong Value Offer” app on popular platforms such as Alipay, Dianping and Meituan for the past 2 years allowing mainland consumers to download deals offered by the local travel and related trade. A promotion in partnership with Royal Caribbean International to promote homeport sailings with pre- or post-cruise stay in Hong Kong also aims to drive mainland visitor numbers.16   

In 2016, out of 10,312,000 overnight vacation arrivals of Chinese tourists, 22 per cent were aged 46 years or over, compared to 21 per cent in 2015. This figure does not include travelers who visited Hong Kong with family, which accounts for 17 per cent of total visitors.17 During the same period 28 per cent of overnight visitors were aged 16-30 years and 23 per cent 31-45, unchanged from 2015. It is worth noting that these numbers do not include travelers categorized as students, which account for 10 per cent of total travelers.   

While Hong Kong is a popular destination for millennials from mainland China, local press reports that Chinese millennials are setting their sights elsewhere, such as Thailand and South Korea, after having visited Hong Kong.18 It is also being reported that Chinese travelers are increasingly traveling to foreign countries outside of Greater China. The latest research results from China Outbound Tourism Research Institute reveals that of the 136.8 million outbound Chinese travelers in 2016 more than half (51.2%) chose countries other than Greater China.   

Taiwan

The number of travelers visiting Taiwan from China decreased by 16 per cent in 2016 compared with 2015.19 Despite the decrease, the number of inbound Chinese travelers to Taiwan has grown by 35.7 per cent in the past 5 years from 2,586,428 in 2011 to 3,511,734 in 2016. China remained at the top of the inbound market in 2015 and 2016.   

In response to the decreasing number of Chinese travelers, the Taiwanese government launched the Go-South Policy aimed at increasing visitor numbers from Southeast Asian countries. During the first 10 months of 2016, Thailand saw the most growth (47.1%), followed by Vietnam (24.3%), and the Philippines (18.8%).20 There have also been a number of initiatives by local county governments to attract Chinese travelers. For example, in 2017 the Taitung County government joined the World Travel Fair in Shanghai to promote the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Taitung, while the Hualien Country government launched direct flights to Hong Kong, Kunming and Wuhan from the end of 2016.21   

In 2016 the Taiwanese government increased the daily entrance quota for FIT Chinese travelers from 5,000 to 6,000 and also reduced the visa fee on arrival for 3 mini links visitors. The 3 mini links refers to direct trade, postal and transportation links between Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu and Xiamen and Mawei in China's Fujian province. People from both Taiwan and China have used the mini links to travel back and forth, avoiding having to transit through Hong Kong or other places. Since January 1, 2017 Hong Kong and Macau residents are also able to apply for double-entry permits online, providing they are entering Taiwan by cruise for at least one portion of their trip.   

A number of hotels have introduced programs to attract Chinese visitors. For example, infertility clinics partnered with hotels to target Chinese female travelers who wished to use their services.22 The Silence Manor collaborated with Chinese Internet celebrities, successfully increasing its occupancy rate by 20 per cent in January 2016, compared to the same period in the previous year. During 2016 Taiwanese travel agencies also cooperated with the hotel industry, inviting 30 Chinese travel influencers to travel in Taiwan and promote the Taiwanese travel. More hotels formed alliances with airlines, High Speed Rail and internet celebrities to tap the Chinese FIT market.23   

South Korea

Following the US’ deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, which can detect missile launches from China in addition to North Korea, China ordered a ban on Korean travel products from March 15. The number of Chinese travelers to Korea has dropped by 30 to 40 per cent since.24   

As Chinese applications for a Korean visa have decreased, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has broadened the number of locations that can manage visa applications other than the Consulate-General. The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China is also trying to increase the number of Chinese travel agencies that can issue visas from May this year. From January, it allowed Chinese travel agencies to restart Korean visa issuance service, with the number of agencies handling visas increasing by 10. The application process was also simplified.25   

Due to the influence of THAAD and the decline of Chinese travelers, hotels are trying to attract other foreign tourists, including Southeast Asian tourists. They are also offering package deals to increase the demand from domestic consumers.26   

Mexico

In 2016, 74,300 visitors from China traveled to Mexico, an increase of 33.5 per cent compared to the previous year. Since 2016 China has ranked number 15 in the list of nations that visit Mexico.27   

Mexico City, Cancun / Riviera Maya, Tijuana, Guadalajara and Monterrey are among the top destinations for Chinese travelers.28   

As more Chinese tourists visit Mexico some hotels are offering services focused on local experiences and boutique accommodation. The depreciation of the peso has influenced the decision of Chinese people to visit Mexico, along with cultural and historic sites.29   

There have been a number of initiatives in the airline industry that are expected to increase the number of Chinese visitors to Mexico. These include:   

On April 11 2017, the first flight of China Southern Airlines arrived in Mexico on a Boeing Dreamliner, with a capacity of 228 seats. The flight lasts for 20 hours leaving the city of Guangzhou and before arriving in Mexico City makes a stop in Vancouver, Canada. The flight has a frequency of 3 times a week   

In February 2017, All Nippon Airways introduced a direct Tokyo-Mexico flight, which is expected to bring more Japanese and Chinese travelers to Mexico   

In October 2017 Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines are expected to introduce flights to Mexico30   

United Kingdom

In 2016, 260,432 people from China visited Britain and China ranked 23 in the UK’s inbound traveler market. Monthly airline seat capacity from China to Britain has grown by almost 75 per cent since 2011 due to new flights, including from Guangzhou to London Heathrow, from Beijing to Manchester and from Chongqing to London Heathrow.31   

Some hotels in the UK have introduced initiatives to attract Chinese visitors. For example, Travelodge opened its first hotel targeting Chinese travelers, offering noodle kettles, green tea and snack boxes containing Chinese food. Located in Bicester, the 53-room hotel is close to designer shopping outlet Bicester Village. The hotel has employed a language tutor to teach staff key Mandarin phrases.32   

According to Visit Britain 2015 data, half the Chinese visitors to the UK are aged between 25-44. While there is no direct evidence in the UK market of hotels targeting millennials there are plenty of initiatives aimed at reaching millennials in the airline industry. China Southern Airlines was the first airline to open a WeChat account and has developed more than 20 functionalities on the app, from booking flights to customer service. Air China, AirAsia, China Airlines and other domestic airlines also hold WeChat accounts. It is expected other tourism sectors will follow suit.   

United States

In 2015 there were approximately 2.59 million visitors from China to the US, and by 2021 this figure is expected to be 5.72 million.33 China ranks 5th in the list of nations that visit the US, just behind Japan.

Chinese visitors spend more in the US than visitors from any other nation, at roughly US$7,200 (¥49,570.56) per person, according to the US Travel Association, an industry trade group.

US tourism officials are working to assure partners in China that they remain welcoming even as the administration of Republican President Donald Trump tightens international travel policies and promises fundamental changes in the US-China trade relationship. Prior to this, the creation of a 10-year visa between the US and China in 2014 made it easier for Chinese travelers to visit the US more frequently and to venture beyond must-see destinations like New York and Los Angeles to smaller and mid-size destinations and even the national parks. In March 2017 the US and China also agreed to extend Visas for short-term business travelers, tourists and students.34

Brand USA, an organization dedicated to marketing the United States as a premier travel destination, has also created a toolkit for businesses to help them cater more effectively to Chinese tourists.35

A number of hotels in the US have introduced programs to attract more Chinese travelers. These include:

Marcus Hotels & Resorts in Milwaukee partnered with the local Convention & Visitors Bureau to welcome Chinese travelers   

The Sheraton Boston in the Back Bay neighborhood offers extra items specifically for Chinese travelers, such as slippers, robes, instant noodles, an electric kettle and green tea   

The Four Seasons in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood offers Chinese-language television and newspapers and plans to introduce more traditional Chinese dishes on its room service and restaurant menus

Caesars Entertainment last year started offering guests at some of its affiliated resorts the option to book and pay for hotel rooms using WeChat, China’s most popular social media app

The Hilton, Marriott and some resort chains are reporting repeat visitors from China   

A number of airlines have also introduced measures to encourage Chinese travelers to visit the US:   

Hainan Airlines introduced flights from Beijing to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport for the first time in early 2017   

There are 49 flight services involving 9 airlines (4 US and 5 Chinese) operating across 13 US airports and 11 Chinese airports. The newest airline to connect the two is Xiamen Airlines, which began operating non-stop between Shenzhen and Seattle-Tacoma in September 2016   

In the last 2 years the number of non-stop services between the two countries has increased from 33 to 4936