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Chinese tourist boom is just getting started

A report from CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets says the boom will be spurred by increased incomes, relaxation of visa requirements in other countries, and the deteriorating living environment, notably due to pollution, in China.

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A report from CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets says the boom will be spurred by increased incomes, relaxation of visa requirements in other countries, and the deteriorating living environment, notably due to pollution, in China.

The key factors Chinese tourists consider when selecting a destination are cost, sights and culture, and safety, he said. “Any country that’s perceived to be unsafe, people will avoid despite other attractions.”

Chinese tourists are drawn to countries with good safety reputations, such as Japan and Korea, and tend to avoid countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, with poorer safety reputations.

Political instability can also affect the desirability of a destination

In Thailand, where a state of emergency was imposed in January amid political upheaval, the numbers of Chinese tourists are dwindling, according to the Thai Tourism Business Association.

A large number of tourists from China often visit Thailand during Chinese New Year but the number this year was down.

While Chinese tourists may shy away from travel to dangerous destinations, travelling independently is on the rise compared with large group tours of the past.

Whereas in the past eight years Chinese tourists have tended to visit Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, more now are planning to visit the United States, France and Switzerland, according to the report.

“We believe this whole Chinese tourism story is just at the beginning or maybe a quarter of the way through,” said Aaron Fischer, regional head of consumer and gaming research for CLSA. “And this is despite the fact that we’ve all been talking about outbound Chinese tourism for quite a while.”

The report, titled “Chinese Tourists Exploring New Frontiers”, looked at responses from a survey of 1,000 middle-class Chinese in 41 cities.

According to the report, nearly two thirds of middle-class Chinese said they were planning to travel abroad over the coming year. Top destinations include Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan.

The amount of money Chinese spend during travel is expected to triple

The United Nations World Tourism Organization in January reported a record number of tourists were travelling around the world. International tourist arrivals grew by 5% in 2013, with 1.09 billion people travelling. Arrivals in 2014 are also forecast to grow between 4% and 4.5%.

But in Thailand and elsewhere, Chinese tourists have acquired the same sort of reputation for loud, uncouth, culturally unaware behaviour that inspired the term “Ugly Americans” decades ago.

Many in the tourism industry are delighted by the influx, but 80 per cent of 2,200 Chiang Mai residents polled by the university in February said they were highly displeased with Chinese behaviour.

The survey and numerous comments on Thai social media blamed Chinese for spitting, littering, cutting into lines, flouting traffic laws and allowing their children to relieve themselves in public pools. Some restaurant owners complained of Chinese filling up doggy bags at buffets.

The low point in local-tourist relations in Thailand’s second-largest city was likely a photograph widely seen on the Internet of a person, purportedly Chinese, defecating in the city’s ancient moat.

Some of the censure smacks of hypocrisy. The Thais themselves are champion litterers and have notched one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world.

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