The Chinese are coming

Here’s an interesting thought for all destinations currently writing or reviewing their long term brand plans.

Despite the global economic meltdown, the SARS issue, Terrorist bombings in Bali, Spain, NYC and other places, the UN World Tourism Organisation writes that, “in spite of occasional shocks, international tourist arrivals have shown virtually uninterrupted growth: from 25 million in 1950, to 277 million in 1980, to 435 million in 1990, to 675 million in 2000, and the current 940 million.”

These figures have been helped, on the whole by tourists from emerging markets. Thanks to a booming economy in the 1980s, the Japanese were the first non European/North American country to have an impact of the travel industry. This outbound tourism programme was actually driven by the Japanese government which launched what it called the “Ten Million Programme” to double outbound tourism departures between 1986 and 1991.

Many Koreans also travelled overseas in the 1990s when their economy boomed and we shouldn’t forget the Arabs who have always travelled, especially to Europe and the USA.

But it is the Chinese that are really going to impact the travel and tourism industry like never before. In 2002 ‘only’ 10 million Chinese travelled overseas and those tourists spent US$15 billion.

Between now and 2021, The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts that up to 125 million Chinese will travel overseas and they will contribute US$100bn in overseas spending.

Chinese tourists are already making an impression in Singapore where they spend on average S$1,200 (RM2,880) each, 20% more than the average international traveller. In 1H2011, the Chinese spent S$969mil (RM2.3bil), making them the second-largest spenders behind Indonesians, who spent S$1.33bil (RM3.19bil) in the same period.

At the height of the ‘Ten million programme’, about 17 million Japanese travelled overseas. But it felt like they were everywhere and many newspapers wrote rather negatively about the arrival of the polite, shy and wealthy Japanese.

Imagine what it will feel like with over 100 million mainland Chinese interacting with the local populations in London, New York, Rome, Madrid and other cities not used to the less demure ways of middle kingdom residents!

So as you work on the research for that brand plan, should you be looking to the traditional source markets of the West and investing in 5 star resorts on white sandy beaches or gleaming shopping malls with designer labels and perhaps a casino and theme park?

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