From Japan to Malaysia: Top summer destinations for Chinese tourists in 2024 | Travel

Japan and Thailand are topping the list of Asian destinations for Chinese tourists heading out on overseas trips this summer, as China, the world’s largest travel market, seeks good-value vacations. South Korea and Japan have already seen a surge in Chinese tourists as their currencies have weakened against the yuan, while Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia and Thailand are luring tourists with visa-free entry and relatively low costs, according to Cirium seat capacity data, ForwardKeys airfare analysis and online travel site bookings.

Increasing demand for international travel from Chinese tourists suggests the tourism industry is recovering. (Unsplash)

Amy Li, who lives in Chengdu, is taking her husband and two children on a nine-day trip to Malaysia next month. She said the main reason she chose Malaysia was the price. She plans to visit the beaches of Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. “It’s worth the price,” she said. “I like the ocean view and it’s not too far away.”

Popular Asian destinations for Chinese travelers

  1. Japan
  2. Thailand
  3. South Korea
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Singapore
  6. Malaysia
  7. Taiwan
  8. Vietnam
  9. Macau
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Source: Cirium; Ranking of international summer flight capacity from China

The return of Chinese tourists to the global travel market is closely watched, as their numbers and spending are crucial to the tourism industry’s recovery. Estimates vary as to when Chinese international travel will return to pre-pandemic levels, with some expecting a full recovery by the end of the year, while others, such as Fitch Group, point out that mainland Chinese tourists are still holding back on spending.

Booking and search data show rising demand for international travel this summer. Trip.com Group predicts that outbound travel from China will double from last year, with family group sales for international trips now accounting for half of bookings. The World Travel and Tourism Council predicted earlier this month that Chinese vacationers will spend 1.8 trillion yuan ($250 billion) on international travel this year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

So far, Chinese tourism has not returned to the numbers seen in 2019. Regional destinations for the June-August summer season are expected to recover to about 80% of 2019 levels, according to ForwardKeys’ airfare analysis conducted as of June 7. ForwardKeys said only two Asian countries are expected to exceed 2019 levels: Singapore, up 15%, and Malaysia, up 32%.

Tongcheng Travel, an online travel agency popular with Chinese users, said it has seen a rapid increase in bookings from Asian countries that have implemented visa-waiver policies, with Thailand and Singapore becoming popular weekend destinations.

Easier Entry

Bella Huang, a 27-year-old teacher from Jiangsu province, is taking advantage of the relaxed visa requirements to head to Thailand in August with two girlfriends. A big fan of Thai TV shows, this will be her first and only trip abroad this year. She budgeted about 8,000 yuan for the trip. She said getting a visa might be difficult, and she hadn’t even considered going to Europe this year. Still, some European destinations are expected to grow, with Belgium, Spain, the UK and Italy topping the list of popular countries, according to data from Cirium and Trip.com.

Tourists taking long-haul flights to Europe are also increasingly looking for more comfort. Travelers to Rome, London, Milan, Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona are spending more on premium seats than they did in 2019, even though economy class in most European destinations has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels. “We’re seeing strong growth in premium travel and business travel,” said Nan Dai, China market analyst at ForwardKeys.

A friendly destination

Other destinations expected to exceed 2019 levels also point to geopolitical influences: According to Cirium, the top countries expected to see increases in Chinese travelers are Turkey, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, all of which are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Visitor numbers to Hungary are expected to soar as air capacity increases sixfold — the biggest increase of any country, but from a low base. “A lot of these countries have a strong attachment to China,” said Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based marketing firm China Skinny. “They’re much friendlier toward China, and that adds to the appeal.”

This article has been published from a news agency feed without any modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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