China's Outbound Tourists to Top 200 Million by 2028, Marketing Exec Says
Zhang Yushuo
DATE:  Jul 09 2024
/ SOURCE:  Yicai
China's Outbound Tourists to Top 200 Million by 2028, Marketing Exec Says China's Outbound Tourists to Top 200 Million by 2028, Marketing Exec Says

(Yicai) July 9 -- The number of Chinese people traveling overseas is poised to reach 200 million by 2028 as incomes rise and more people look abroad for leisure and business activities, according to the chief executive officer and founder of China Trading Desk, a digital marketing and advertising agency.

“People in China are becoming better educated and more well-off and as a result they are seeking unique leisure and business experiences abroad,” said Subramania Bhatt, citing the firm's latest Travel Sentiment Survey which polls 15,000 Chinese people each quarter about their overseas travel plans.

“There are more people traveling overseas from China than the combined number from several countries,” said Bhatt. Travel over the long Labor Day holiday in May, for instance, was back to 87 percent of pre-Covid levels.

But there has been a shift in travel preferences, Bhatt said. Whereas before shopping and dining were the main activities, now those traveling abroad are looking for an immersive cultural and close-to-nature experience.

The most avid outbound travelers are young people under 30, and the majority are women, according to the first-quarter survey. However, those aged 40 and above are also becoming more interested in overseas journeys as international travel picks up after the pandemic.

Social media platforms such as Douyin, Xiaohongshu and WeChat hold huge sway in the shaping of travel decisions, he said. And Key Opinion Consumers and Key Opinion Leaders play a crucial role in consumer preferences.


Safety remains a significant concern, said Bhatt. For example, interest in Thailand dropped after the media depicted some problems with crime, even though they weren’t true. And travel to Japan dipped due to worries over the discharge of radioactive water into the sea.

“However, interest in these two countries has since rebounded. Thailand is a top destination again, and Japan is also back in the top five,” Bhatt said. “It goes up and down depending on safety concerns. So safety is a major issue.”

Visa requirements also significantly impact travel choices, as more people are making last-minute travel plans. Some 69 percent of people plan to book their holidays less than one month in advance, the survey showed.

“Places like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are rated very high in terms of where people want to travel compared to other destinations that require visas, such as Australia, Europe, and the US,” said Bhatt.

A number of countries have been adjusting their visa policies, such as Australia, to make it easier for Chinese travelers to visit. “We expect more countries to facilitate the visa application process, especially for short visits, to accommodate the surge in spontaneous travel,” said Bhatt.


But there remain challenges such as economic uncertainty, varying economic policies and bilateral connectivity.

“Many countries are experiencing high inflation, which is pushing up the cost of travel. This may deter some travelers who remember pre-pandemic prices and are shocked by the current costs, which can be two to three times higher,” said Bhatt.

Another difficulty is the number of flights between countries, said Bhatt. For instance, there are still only half the number of flights to the US than before the pandemic, and flights to places like France haven't returned to 2019 levels despite the upcoming Olympics in August.

“The number of flight connections hasn't fully recovered, which restricts travel capacity and pushes up fares,” Bhatt said.

To attract more Chinese tourists, destinations should enable popular Chinese payment platforms like WeChat Pay and Alipay, to make it easier for travelers to make payment, Bhatt said. Additionally, providing Chinese language support in areas such as customer service and signage will help.

“The potential for China is immense, and the number of Chinese individuals getting better educated and who are looking outside the country for leisure and business is increasing. This presents a great opportunity for international brands to tap into the Chinese market,” Bhatt said.

Editor: Kim Taylor

Follow Yicai Global on
Keywords:   outbound tourism,Chinese travelers,travel trends,safety concerns,visa policies