The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) just confirmed what many savvy travel watchers were predicting, that China has become the new number one tourism source market in the world.
China’s expenditure on travel abroad reached US$ 102 billion in 2012, making it the first tourism source market in the world in terms of spending. Other emerging markets as well as most traditional tourism source markets also showed positive results in 2012.
Over the past decade China has been, and still is, by far the fastest-growing tourism source market in the world. Thanks to rapid urbanization, rising disposable incomes and relaxation of restrictions on foreign travel, the volume of international trips by Chinese travelers has grown from 10 million in 2000 to 83 million in 2012. Expenditure by Chinese tourists abroad has also increased almost eightfold since 2000. Boosted by an appreciating Chinese currency, Chinese travelers spent a record US$ 102 billion in international tourism in 2012, a 40% jump from 2011 when it amounted to US$ 73 billion.
With this sustained growth, China has become the largest spender in international tourism globally in 2012. In 2005 China ranked seventh in international tourism expenditure, and has since successively overtaken Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. With the 2012 surge, China leaped to first place, surpassing both top spender Germany and second largest spender United States (both close to US$ 84 billion in 2012).
Some of the other emerging markets have also increased their share of world tourism spending over the past decade. Among the world’s top ten source markets by expenditure, the Russian Federation saw an increase of 32% in 2012, to US$ 43 billion, bringing it from the 7th to 5th place in the ranking of international tourism spending. Worth mentioning beyond the top ten is Brazil, with an expenditure of US$ 22 billion in 2012, moving to 12th place up from 29th place in 2005.
“Emerging economies continue to lead growth in tourism demand” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The impressive growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects the entry into the tourism market of a growing middle class from these countries, which will surely continue to change the map of world tourism,” he added.
Although the highest growth rates in expenditure abroad came from emerging economies, key traditional source markets, usually growing at a slower pace, also posted positive results. Spending on travel abroad from Germany and the USA grew by 6% each. Spending from the UK (US$ 52 billion) grew by 4% and the country retained its 4th place in the list of major source markets. Expenditure by Canada grew by 7%, while both Australia and Japan grew by 3%. On the other hand, France (-6%) and Italy (-1%) were the only markets in the top ten to record a decline in international tourism spending.
Our Editors certainly see this trend. Over the last few years biz class cabins have been increasingly filled with traveled from the BRIC countries and 5-star hotels from Dubai to Denver have been offering services aimed at new global travelers. We welcome this as more travelers means more travel infrastructure, better facilities and more cross-cultural learnings. A growing travel industry is good for all of us who love to explore our world.