The world's biggest spenders

  • 8 June 2014
  • From the section Business
  • comments

Impressively, China accounts for nearly 1 in 10 tourists globally.

This number is set to rise and it shouldn't be surprising since China accounts for one-fifth of the world's population.

Projections are that the 100 million trips taken each year now will double by 2020.

This is with only an estimated 5% of the population holding passports. Though that's already more than the population of Britain.

Still, with 1.3 billion people, there's a lot more potential tourists.

Chinese tourists are already the biggest spenders globally. They outspend the Americans and Germans as well as even the Russians on a per trip basis.

In 2013, Chinese tourists spent over $100 billion (£59.5bn) and they travel to shop.

Some 80% of Chinese tourists view holidays as shopping trips, as compared with about half for those from the Middle East. And they are keen to leave China to do so in order to find lower prices for luxury goods.

'Stubborn' stomachs

CC Zhuang, the chief executive of Qunar, China's largest travel website, says Chinese tourists also leave the country to seek better services in holiday spots.

He says that the Chinese stomach is "stubborn," so travellers will prefer places with good Chinese food as well as local food.

None of this should be surprising given the size and rapid growth of China. What is somewhat astounding is how quickly it's changed.

During the 1990s, my Chinese friends found it difficult to travel abroad. They paid large deposits (ostensibly to ensure their return) to designated travel agents who were authorised to take them on group tours.

Simply booking a ticket and hotel online yourself weren't really options for the average Chinese.

How different it is now.

The growth of Chinese tourism offers an opportunity for other countries seeking to attract big spending visitors.

But, for under-developed Chinese tourist sites that are affected by pollution and lagging services, surely there's a missed opportunity for the Chinese themselves.

For more on how Chinese tourists are changing the global industry, watch Talking Business with Linda Yueh: