Chinese tourists in Thailand

Chinese outbound tourists projected to reach 130 million in 2024

The Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays, also known as Spring Festival holidays which start on 10 February, are set to mark a rebound in the tourism sector as ports across China will embrace hustle and bustle again, which is expected to reach the same level as in 2019.

With the strengthening of China’s tourism market dynamics and residents’ willingness to travel abroad, the pace of international tourism recovery in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to accelerate significantly. In 2023, the number of outbound tourists of China exceeded 87 million. It is projected that the number of outbound Chinese tourists in 2024 will reach 130 million as reported by The Global Times.

With China achieving comprehensive mutual visa exemption with 23 countries including Thailand, Singapore and the Maldives, the tourism market is expected to witness “the hottest outbound tourism in five years,” industry insiders predicted.

During this year’s Spring Festival holidays, international points of entry and exit in China will see high volumes of inbound and outbound travelers. The daily average number of passenger clearances at international is expected to reach 1.8 million people, approximately 3.3 times higher than last year’s Spring Festival and equivalent to the 2019 Spring Festival level, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) predicted.

Chinese tourists favour Southeast Asian nations

Many Chinese travelers prefer Southeast Asian countries as their top overseas destinations for the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays, according to a Global Times online poll. Some of the top 10 overseas destinations include the Maldives, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland, where a car rental Reykjavik is a popular choice, France and Italy.

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“The top countries are countries which warmly embrace Chinese tourists including offering visa friendly policies. Traveling abroad is like paying a visit to a neighbour. One does not only experience the beautiful scenery and customs, but also comprehensively considers the friendliness of the destination,” a tourism industry said.

According to the 2024 Spring Festival tourism market forecast report released by China’s major travel booking platform Ctrip, in terms of outbound tourism, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea and other short and medium distance outbound routes are popular choices. Popular destinations include Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Macao, New Zealand and Vietnam, the company said.

Up to now, outbound travel bookings during the Spring Festival holiday have increased by more than 10 times year-on-year, Ctrip said.

Inbound tourism

China has recently implemented a slew of measures to help ease the process for foreign nationals coming to China, including relaxing visa application requirements and simplifying visa application materials, indicating that China continues to speed up its opening-up to the outside world.

In 2023, driven by policies such as visa exemptions, inbound tourism started to recover. However, during the three-year pandemic, many services now operate on smartphone apps and payment platforms which are hard for foreigners to sign up to and use, according to a report. This poses extra challenges for foreigners who want to visit China.

Despite a significant increase in the number of arrivals thanks to a series of visa facilitation measures, inbound tourism numbers have yet to fully recover. According to statistics from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in the first half of 2023, the number of inbound tourists received by travel agencies nationwide was 477,800, compared to 8.5 million in the same period in 2019, the report said. And there is still considerable room for improvement in the convenience of inbound tourism, including areas such as visas, payments, transportation and tourism services.

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