Commentary: China tourists inject freshness into global travel market

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By Zhong Sheng

More than 6 million Chinese mainland tourists from nearly 300 cities traveled to 1,155 cities in 88 countries and regions during China’s eight-day National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holidays, statistics released by the China National Tourism Administration revealed.

Chinese mainland outbound tourists have continued boosting the economies of many other countries and regions while their changing travel behavior is bringing positive changes to the global travel sector.

Foreign merchants have adopted new payment methods thanks to Chinese mainland consumers. For instance, before the holidays, many Japanese merchants started to enquire about access to Alipay, China’s major online payment platform.

Examples like this show new technologies and trends in China have created a new landscape in other countries and regions.

Travelling abroad is becoming a regular thing among increasingly affluent Chinese, especially as Chinese mainland passports are now widely recognized across the world.

China has been the world's largest outbound tourism market since 2012. According to statistics, the number of Chinese mainland tourists rose to 83 million person times in 2012 from 10 million person times in 2000. In the next five years, the rest of the world will experience about 700 million Chinese mainland tourists.

At the same time, the Chinese mainland tourists are interacting with the world in a continuously changing fashion as their travel and consumption behaviors are becoming more mature.

According to a report by the Financial Times, Chinese tourists’ shopping expenditure experienced the largest drop of 15.9 percent compared with other items in total travel spending.

A report on Chinese mainland outbound tourists in the first half year of 2017 said that Chinese are spending more money on in-depth travel. They now prefer simple, independent travel experiences, such as choosing where to live, what to eat and buy and which sites to visit.

They are also removing luxury bags and jewels from shopping lists and visiting more museums and art galleries, the report pointed out.

To attract more Chinese tourists, many tourist destinations in the world have launched targeted studies. The Spanish daily newspaper El Pais described Chinese mainland tourists as tech-savvy urban residents with decent incomes and college educations.

Western countries now accept Quick Pass, a contactless payment service by China UnionPay, and Chinese mainland mobile payment apps WeChat Pay and Alipay have been introduced to China’s neighboring countries including Japan and Thailand.

The adaptation has not only satisfied the need of Chinese mainland tourists but also helped people in host countries embark on the newest payment trends.

For example, during the holidays, Port Arthur in Australia not only provided audio tours of scenic attractions in Chinese language, but also arranged four free Chinese Putonghua-speaking tours everyday, each up to 45 minutes.

Foreign merchants have even started to conduct in-depth studies on tea, food, festivals, Weibo social media and other aspects of Chinese culture, as well as on how to better lure Chinese mainland tourists.

From a simple pattern of buying and selling to a deeper model featuring mutual inspiration, Chinese mainland tourists are changing the way they interact with the world. The new trends are set to draw China closer to the world and benefit the world by letting different cultures mingle.

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