Slowing Chinese Outbound Growth

Travel and Tourism | China and Asia Pacific

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China is huge, in terms of its population, economy and – increasingly – as a global travel market. China is currently the third largest market in the world, after the US and Germany, measured in terms of overnight trips to other destinations. The volume of Chinese outbound trips was around 100 million in 2019. The growth of the Chinese market has been astonishing – outbound trips have tripled since 2010 and increased tenfold from 2000. China’s outbound travel is especially important for destinations in Asia-Pacific (APAC), accounting for almost one-quarter of overnight arrivals to APAC countries – the region’s largest source market by a significant margin.

However, the extraordinary growth that delivered the increase in Chinese visitors to the world – 15-20% annually in the early 2010s – has slowed in recent years as the relatively young Chinese market matures. This slowing has raised concerns among many destinations that have become somewhat reliant on Chinese travellers to drive growth in visitors, notably in APAC. We discuss the implications of China’s slowing outbound growth in the following report: Slowing Chinese Outbound Growth and the Implications for APAC

While these concerns are understandable, it is important to put China’s slowing growth into perspective. Even with slower outbound growth, China is still projected to deliver the largest increase in visitors to APAC over the coming decade according to Tourism Economics’ baseline forecasts – 47 million more in 2028 relative to that in 2019, which is more than double the next largest source market and comparable to the amount of additional travellers delivered by China over the past ten years. This increase will be achieved with average annual growth of 5%. By comparison, to deliver this same volume increase to APAC, other large source markets would need to achieve average annual growth of between 10% and 25%.

Michael Shoory, Senior Economist

Michael is currently conducting economic impact analysis and custom research projects.

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The significant volume increase that we project in Chinese travel to APAC goes some way to lessening concerns about China’s slower outbound growth – a slowdown that was always going to happen as the market matured. There are numerous long-term factors that are likely to support this growth, such as a significant increase in the number of middle-income households. In addition, the current relatively low propensity for international travel among the Chinese even offers some upside potential to outbound volumes.

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