Changing Tides – Chinese Consumers are now the World’s Largest Travel Spenders

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In a sign that the Chinese are redefining global travel, the industry’s most recent statistics show that the Chinese are now the world’s number spender on travel. This is a key milestone that demonstrates China’s increasing global presence.

China has overtaken the U.S. and Germany as the world’s biggest spenders on travel, with Chinese travelers spending $102 billion on international travel in 2012, an increase of over 40 percent from 2011.

The second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) released today by Hotels.com, the world’s leading hotel booking website, reveals significant insights into the changing behaviors of Chinese travelers and how the global hotel industry is adapting.

Surveying more than 3,000 Chinese international travelers and more than 1,500 hoteliers around the world, the Hotels.com report found 75 percent of global hoteliers say Chinese travelers now account for up to five percent of their business. Nearly half (45 percent) say they have experienced an increase in Chinese guests over the last year, with the greatest increases coming in APAC (61 percent). Hoteliers see China as a positive growth market over the next three years with one in 10 expecting to see an increase of more than 50 percent and almost half (47 percent) anticipating an 11-50 percent rise.

According to the Hotels.com report, the majority of overseas Chinese travel (96 percent) has been for leisure purposes, while just over half (52 percent) have also visited other countries for business or education.

In a growing trend, nearly two thirds (62 percent) of Chinese travelers say they prefer to travel independently and not as part of a group. This development was confirmed by the hoteliers surveyed, who say 70 percent of Chinese guests now travel independently, compared with a much more even split in 2012.

“The 2013 Chinese International Travel Monitor shows that the move to independent travel identified in the last year’s report is now preferred by the majority of Chinese travelers,” said Johan Svanstrom, Managing Director of Hotels.com Asia Pacific. “While in-roads have been made in this area, governments will have to take this into account when organizing their visa application infrastructure and processes.”

In addition, the CITM highlights areas for continued improvement for accommodation providers. The ability to accept Chinese payment methods is seen as the single most important offering from hotels, with over one-fourth (26 percent) of Chinese travelers feeling this is a key area for improvement.

Three-fourths (75 percent) of Chinese travelers say hoteliers need to improve the provision of translated items, such as welcome literature, websites, TV programs and newspapers, while almost half (42 percent) say that they would like to see more Mandarin-speaking hotel staff.

Highlighting a disconnect between the desires of Chinese travelers and provisions made by hoteliers, one-fourth (25 percent) of hoteliers say they offer cultural awareness training to staff but 11 percent offer welcome materials in Mandarin. Additionally, just over half (56 percent) of hotels globally have invested less than $10,000** in developing programs and products specifically catered to Chinese guests over the past 12 months.

When it comes to researching and booking travel, personal recommendation plays an increasingly vital role, with almost one-third (30 percent) of Chinese travelers saying they rely on advice from family and friends, followed by online travel booking and review sites.

More than one-fourth of Chinese travelers (27 percent) use social media to help them make decisions on vacation destinations, with this figure rising to 33 percent among travelers under 35.

“These insights highlight the need for hoteliers to adapt their marketing strategies, with a particular focus on online and social media channels, to attract Chinese travelers,” said Svanstrom. “While the CITM shows hoteliers are making positive steps towards catering to an increasingly mobile and savvy Chinese travel market, it also shows the need for the global hotel industry to adapt facilities and services to more extensively cater to the world’s largest market of travelers.”

“In addition, programs being implemented by many governments and tourism authorities to attract and facilitate for Chinese travelers are a positive step in the right direction, but the pace of growth in the volume of Chinese travelers appears to be outstripping the pace of change in the hotel industry,” he concluded.

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