A Big Trend: Chinese Tourists’ Increasing Need for High-quality Products in GMS
Chinese tourists are flocking to Southeast Asia, especially to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), attracted by relatively low-cost tours, increased flight numbers, flexible visa policies, etc. In 2016, 20m Chinese tourists visited to Southeast Asia, among which 13.3m visited to GMS, making up 66.6% of the total number of Chinese tourists to Southeast Asia.
Chinese Tourist Arrivals in GMS Statistics 2016
The number of Chinese tourists visiting GMS has already experienced a remarkable increase in recent years. In 2016, China ranked the largest source market for GMS tourism.
*Note: The Chinese tourist arrivals in Myanmar seemingly dropped significantly in 2016 compared with that in 2015. The reason is that the accounting method of travelers were changed in 2016, thus only visitors with visa were counted and considered as real travelers compared to one-day visitors crossing with land borders. Hence, the total foreign arrivals in Myanmar in 2016 decreased by 38% according to official data counted with new method by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar.
An outbound travel brand of Tang Dynasty Tours, Wowoyoo, specializing in providing private tours to Chinese citizens, has also seen this trend. Wowoyoo has sent 5000+ Chinese tourists to GMS from 2016 till now. These tourists prefer high-quality local and international brand hotels or resorts like ClubMed, Banyan Tree, Luang Prabang View Hotel, etc. Regarding to airlines, they prefer to full-service airlines like China Southern Airlines rather than low cost airlines.
Why the Trend in GMS Will Grow
The trend is expected to continue for the following four reasons:
- Burgeoning outbound Chinese tourists
According to estimation, roughly 65 million Chinese citizens have obtained permits for outbound travel, accounting for only 5% of China’s population, which means the outbound tourism market potential remain tremendous. With wealth growing in China, Chinese citizens enjoy a higher income, thus spending more money in traveling, among which, some travel abroad several times a year and some will start their overseas travel in the near future. With fascinating cultures, advantageous geographical locations and favorable visa policies, GMS is expected to woo a large number of these citizens.
- The millennials are the main force of outbound tourism
Among all Chinese tourists to GMS, more than 50% are young people born after 1985. They are eager to explore the world and usually go on several overseas trips a year. Though many of them are becoming interested in longer haul countries, GMS will still be their most-frequently visited destinations in consideration of GMS’ geographic advantage –a couple of hours and you are there to enjoy a wonderful holiday. So, it is expected that they will travel twice or three times to neighboring countries like GMS, and long haul destinations will be their annual trip.
Unlike the last generation who mostly like sightseeing tours and leisure tours, the millennials prefer adventure tours, road trips, cruises and more personalized services.
3. Easier air travel
With increased numbers of international routes and services from China’s second and third tier cities to GMS added by both full-service carriers and budget airlines, like Kunming-Siem Reap, Nanning-Bangkok/Yangon, Chengdu-Koh Samui, Wuhan-Da Nang, the number of outbound tourists in these cities is growing faster than that in first-tier cities. Traveling to GMS is as easy as traveling within China now, therefore, more and more Chinese tourists choose to fly to GMS for short vocations.
- Higher Budget, Deeper Experience
The number of travelers to GMS has got potential to grow as people only touch the surface of these destinations at the moment. More experienced Chinese tourists are now seeking out better and deeper experiences instead of traditional fast-pace package tours. They take travel as a way to relax and learn exotic cultures and customs, and are willing to take more time and money in a city or a country to travel and live like locals. So they usually prefer to experience slow tourism, which allows them to take their time to fully enjoy the experience.
The Trend Can Make GMS Tourism Sustainable
The increasing number of Chinese travelers to GMS may bring impacts on the environments, attractions, local people, etc. in GMS. To make GMS tourism sustainable, the following four aspects can be applied.
People of different ages have different preferences and tendencies. Among all Chinese tourists, 10% are born after the 1990s, who are mostly single and workplace newbie, curious about the world and eager to explore the world; 70% are born between 1970 and 1989, who need to care for both parents and children, and hope to remain close to parents and show world to children through traveling; 15% are born between 1950 and1969, who have a lot of money and leisure time, desire high-quality travel experiences, and take travel as one of their top interests.
So tour operators and service providers will need to provide diverse tours and products of various themes to meet the exact demands of different age groups. Specifically tailored tour is proven to be excellent solution and a trend, which allows tourists have flexibility in choosing flights, hotels and itineraries, and also have enough free time to visit local markets, taste local delicacies and acquire authentic experiences.
With decades of rapid development, Chinese outbound tourism market is maturing. Additionally, with the wealth growth, Chinese tourists have more money spending in travelling. It is researched that average Chinese tourist travels abroad five times in a lifetime. Thus, Chinese tourists become more mature, sophisticated and experienced, and require higher-level and higher-end services.
An advisable way is cooperate with Chinese tour operators, because they have relevant expertise and experiences to provide Chinese tourists with most wanted and satisfactory services.
Excellent service cannot be achieved without well-qualified tourism practitioners and complete tourism facilities. Accelerating the training of Chinese speaking travel guides and the upgrading of tourism infrastructure will help boost GMS tourism.
Gaining repeat customers
More new destinations and novel experiences should be developed to lure the increasing number of seasoned Chinese tourists who are known for seeking out new destinations.
Sightseeing tours help to attract first-timers to GMS. Then how to gain repeat customers? Seasoned Chinese tourists desire to experience authenticity and travel like locals. Hence, new tourism options, for example, experiential tourism for local lifestyles, special interest tourism involving culture, history, cuisines and art, are great attractions for such tourists.
To make the tourism development sustainable, GMS countries should develop more environmentally friendly tourism, ecological tourism, community-based tourism and responsible tourism. GMS has so many communities with abundant cultures, enchanting landscapes and unique lifestyles, which certainly appeal to increasingly-experienced Chinese tourists and boost tourist numbers.
Having more visitors who have more interest in and really care about the place they are visiting is more sustainable than bringing crowds of package-tour tourists who seek for the cheapest offers and prefer taking photos rather than learning more about the places.
Given the abundant tourism resources, GMS can woo more Chinese tourists in the future if it adopts appropriate measures.