The future of Chinese outbound travel

160m outbound trips were made by Chinese travelers this year - an astonishing 16% rise year-on-year.
Among these trips, the percentage of journeys ending in countries other than Macao, Taiwan and Hong Kong are starting to dominate.

Forecasts indicate that outbound trips made by Chinese nationals will hit 400M by 2030. That’s a big opportunity for hoteliers around the world to capitalize on. So, why the rise? And what are the prevailing trends to watch out for?

  • Travellers are predominately residents of major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Despite the large numbers of trips being made, still only 10% of mainland Chinese citizens have a passport. Of this 10% (around 100 million citizens), three quarters of passport holders state that travel has become an invaluable part of their lives.

  • Positively influencing this ever-increasing number is the improving political situation. With increased stability comes increased freedom of movement for Chinese citizens.

  • An increase in FIT (free independent travel) is dramatically changing the industry and the global perception of the Chinese traveller. Chinese tourists are accessing new destinations and in new ways from how they tended to travel in the past.

  • With easing entry requirements, Chinese tourists can now enjoy 27 visa-free destinations (39 e-visa or visa on arrival).

  • Chinese airports continue to improve their connections with the rest of the world, with 100 new connections just in 2017.

  • Travelers can increasingly access clear information on destinations along with new, easier payment options.


Is this the end of group travel?

Powerful Chinese OTAs such as Ctrip are capitalizing on increased Chinese outbound tourism by creating a new model that lives in between groups and FIT. Customized Travel is targeted at small private groups who require flexible services, with "no hidden costs" and consultancy services provided.

With ‘Customized Travel’, these OTAs are discouraging independent travel by labelling it as time-consuming and resulting in poor travel choices. As we’ve seen before, the OTA is positioned as the place where travelers can make the best choice at the best price.

What does this change in trends mean for the direct booking movement?

Chinese travel booking is still highly OTA-dependent, and it’s likely to be a long time before this new generation of Chinese traveler embraces the value of booking direct en masse. However, guests are moving away from tour operators towards free independent travel, and therefore are likely to be positively receptive to personalized messages and targeted promotions.


Want to find out more about the latest trends in the Chinese market? Register here for the first Direct Booking Summit: Asia - Pacific taking place in Singapore on Feb 27-28 2019. With over 25 talks, panels and workshops, case studies from the world’s leading hoteliers and more, this event is not to be missed. Register today!

About The Author

Annalisa loves Asian food, travel and spending time with her adorable daughters. You can often find her scooting around the streets of London.