Every Chinese New Year as people board trains, planes, buses, cars and mopeds to head home for the warmth of the family reunion, taking part in the largest human migration in the world. According to China’s Ministry of Transport, around 2.91 billion trips (2.48 billion journeys by road, 332 million by railway, 54.55 million trips by air and 42.8 million by water) are expected to be taken during the official extended travel period for the Spring Festival, which is between Jan. 21 and March 3. That’s a 3.6% growth from last year and the average traveler will cover 255 miles during this period.
While it’s traditionally a time to spend with family, making dumplings and exchanging red envelopes, many Chinese are going to use this time to explore the world outside their hometowns, and an increasing number of affluent and upper-middle class Chinese tourists have booked trips overseas. According to Ctrip (China’s largest OTA), about 6 million trips will be taken out of China instead of domestically during Chinese New Year -with Japan, Korea, Thailand being among the most popular destinations. (Note: this is about a million more travelers than last year).
The number of travelers this holiday is even on course for breaking records as tourism destinations around the world prepare to cater to around 40 percent more Chinese tourists. John O’Sullivan, the managing director of Tourism Australia, said the New Year holiday would demonstrate how important Chinese tourism is to the Australian industry. “Last year’s Chinese New Year, which also fell in February, saw a 57 per cent increase in Chinese visitors. A similar increase this year would see arrivals this month hit around 250,000,” he says.
While shopping is a favorite activity for China’s outbound tourists abroad, many lifestyle and travel companies are preparing for a group of Chinese travelers that aren’t focused on shopping alone, banking on young millennials interested in more experience-based travel. Ctrip is reporting that the amount of money Chinese travelers are putting towards travel budgets is rising. According to the company’s research, spending for Chinese travelers abroad during Chinese New Year is increasing to more than about $1,520 per person, and this doesn’t include costs for shopping. Instead, it covers costs of flights, hotels, and tour guides, for not only the average sightseeing experiences, but add-ons like bridge climbs, hot-air balloon rides and whale watching. Notably, however, 50.4 percent fewer people are opting to travel independently rather than with tour groups via the usual bus tours.
Aside from booking more interesting tour packages and sight-seeing adventures, it’s been recently on trend for Chinese tourists to pick more exotic destinations for travel, like the North and South Poles. Ctrip’s research revealed that Chinese travelers are booking trips to Antarctica, at about $45,682 a trip, making it the most pricey of the travel company’s offerings.
While the retail sector is counting on outbound Chinese shoppers to notice their elaborate Chinese New Year campaigns, it seems increasingly likely that this year for Chinese tourists, it’s just as much about the stories they have to tell after their trip as the luxury items they have to show for it.
恭喜发财 (Gōngxǐ fācái)
Sources: Jing Daily, Ctrip, Sydney Morning Herald, Ministry of Transport