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Chinese outbound tourism

“Why do Chinese tourists no longer want to travel abroad?”: Trending hashtag on Chinese social media

As travel restrictions continue to ease as the world enters the post-pandemic era, China’s outbound tourism is gradually recovering. In the first half of 2023, outbound tourism destinations welcomed 40.37 million tourists from mainland China, mostly in neighboring countries and countries. The international passage transportation volume also has bounced back to 23% of the level of 2019, with June reaching 41.6% of the same period in 2019. While this data suggests significant potential for the future of China’s outbound travel, it remains uncertain whether it will rebound to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, in stark contrast with the enthusiasm Chinese tourists have shown for inbound travel instead.

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The leading concerns of Chinese outbound tourists

On Weibo, netizens are having heated discussions in terms of why #Why are Chinese tourists not interested in traveling abroad anymore# (中国游客为何不想出境游了). According to an ongoing poll on Weibo under the hashtag, the primary reason why people are less interested in traveling abroad is safety issues, followed by higher expenses and changing income levels.

Chinese outbound tourism 2023
Source: Weibo, netizens’ comments on why snacks are becoming unpopular in China

Safety concerns diminish Chinese tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia

Safety concerns are increasing, especially for those traveling in Southeast Asian countries, one of the top outbound travel choices for Chinese tourists. These countries are seeing a notable decline in Chinese visitors than expected this year, which could possibly curb their economic growth in the long term due to a heavy reliance on tourism. From January to July 2023, the number of Chinese tourists who visited Thailand was only 1.83 million, marking an 84% drop as compared to a total number of 11 million back in 2019. In addition, other Southeast Asian countries have been significantly affected by recent scandals. For instance, cybercrimes in Myanmar and human trafficking problems in Cambodia. These incidents have somewhat tarnished their images in the eyes of Chinese tourists.

How does it impact the Chinese outbound tourism industry?

In response to the shifting dynamics in the Chinese outbound tourism industry, hospitality and travel enterprises find it imperative to reevaluate their pricing strategies. The aim is to enhance affordability for Chinese travelers, thereby alleviating concerns related to elevated expenses. Concurrently, efforts are directed towards the reconstruction of destination images that may have been adversely affected by prevailing trends. Future marketing endeavors will focus on revitalizing the perception of these destinations. Leveraging popular Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu is identified as an effective means to disseminate positive information. This approach can also help counteract any negative narratives, contributing to the overall image-rebuilding process.

Resilience in Chinese outbound tourism

  • Chinese outbound tourism is gradually recovering, with 40.37 million tourists from mainland China in the first half of 2023, and international transportation volume rebounding to 23% of 2019 levels.
  • Chinese tourists’ leading concerns for not traveling abroad are safety issues, higher expenses, and changing income levels, as indicated by discussions on Weibo.
  • Safety concerns in Southeast Asian countries, along with recent scandals, have led to a decline in Chinese tourists visiting these destinations.