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What Are the Top Travel Trends in China?

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Skift Take

As China continues its recovery from the pandemic, we look at trends shaping the country’s travel industry.

China, the world’s largest outbound tourism market prior to the pandemic, is expected to continue making substantial progress in its recovery this year.

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So what are top travel trends in China? We put the question to our artificial intelligence chatbot, Ask Skift. It used information from our past news coverage and we did additional reporting.

Ask Skift said:

Some of the top travel trends in China are:

Demographic Shift: There is a notable demographic shift especially among young upwardly mobile women, driving the recent travel rebound in China. As of April 2024, 62% of outbound travelers were female, with a significant portion between the ages of 18 to 29.

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Spontaneous and Online Bookings: Chinese travelers are researching and booking trips online, often spontaneously. This trend suggests a shift towards spontaneity and flexibility driven by their digital skills.

Shopping and Luxury Experiences: Shopping ranks among the top five consumption items for outbound travel along with accommodation, air tickets, and food. Businesses are encouraged to promote shopping and luxury experiences that appeal to young Chinese women travelers.

Digital Platforms and Mobile Payments: Popular travel apps like CTrip and Qunar, as well as social media platforms like Douyin and Xiaohongshu (China’s Instagram), are increasingly used for travel planning. Digital wallets and mobile payments with platforms like Alipay being the top payment method for outbound travel.

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Preference for Active Trips: There’s a trend towards more active and adventurous holidays. For example, instead of just visiting Thailand, travelers prefer to go for a kayaking or diving trip.

Outbound Travel Growth: Despite a slower recovery after the borders reopened, a significant recovery is expected with a forecast of 80% growth in Chinese outbound departures in 2024 and a further 46% in 2025.

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What else you need to know:

Chinese travelers are increasingly using social media platforms sites like Xiaohongshu, which has been referred to China’s Instagram, and Douyin. A recent survey by China Trading Desk found 40% of Chinese travelers plan trips using those platforms.

Skift reported in April that searches for Middle Eastern destinations — such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — have surged since last December. Outbound travel from China to the Middle East hit pre-Covid levels during the most recent Chinese New Year, according to data firm ForwardKeys.

Chinese travelers have shown an inclination to head to destinations that have eased visa requirements —including Egypt. Calvin Chu, managing director of international vacation business at Alibaba’s Fliggy, said more Chinese travelers are interested in visiting the North African nation, which now allows Chinese travelers to secure a visa on arrival.

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Last December, China Eastern Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to operate a direct route between Shanghai and Cairo.

In addition, visa-free policies have made Malaysia and Signapore more appealing for Chinese travelers. Officials in Malaysia, which grants visa-free entry to citizens of China and India for stays up to 30 days, expect to attract 5 million Chinese tourists this year, more than tripling the figure from 2023.

Meanwhile, Singapore welcomed more than 327,000 Chinese visitors in Februrary, roughly 96% of 2019 levels.

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Honeymoon travel among Chinese is also poised to surge, with those between the ages of 20 and 30 making up just under 78% of China’s wedding market. Roughly 60% of Chinese newlyweds plan to spend up to 31% of their wedding savings on honeymoon travel.

The number of Chinese travelers looking to hit the slopes is poised to boom as winter sports gain popularity. China’s ski resorts recorded a 66% percent increase in visits from the 2014-15 season to 2022-23. The allure of winter activities has made Kazakhstan a popular destination for Chinese travelers.

Chinese tourists also emphasize issues of safety when choosing destinations to visit. A recent survey by China-based marketing company Dragon Trail International found that a growing number of Chinese travelers have soured on Thailand due to concerns about safety. Thailand’s image in China took a hit after a shooting at a luxury Bangkok mall killed two people, including a Chinese citizen.

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Thailand came in 17th out of 20 outbound destinations for safety, with 38% of Chinese travelers describing the kingdom as “unsafe” to visit.

Finally, as more Chinese travelers are looking to venture overseas this year, just under 40% of respondents said they plan to or want to visit a region outside of Asia this year, according to Dragon Trail. Close to 27% plan to travel to Europe, the most popular long-haul region.

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