In the first nine months of 2016, a total of 101.5 million border-crossings from Mainland China took place in the first nine months of 2016, the first time that the 100 million hurdle was crossed within the first three quarters of a year, according to a COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute report.
COTRI said that 49.8 million - less than half of the total number - stayed within Greater China (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan), with the remaining 51.7 million trips going to destinations further afield.
Compared to the third quarter of 2015, this represents an increase of 3.3 percent, which, however, is split between a year-over-year decrease of 6.2 percent for Greater China, but an increase of 14.5 percent for the rest of the world.
Compared to the figures from the first half of 2016, the decrease in Greater China has slowed from 7 percent last year, but so too has the growth rate for the rest of the world, which has slipped from 16.6 percent last year.
Focusing on the third quarter of 2016 alone, out of 37.5 million border-crossings from China (up 4.4 percent from last year), 20 million trips went beyond Greater China, an increase of 14.1 percent, while 17.5 million, a decrease of 5.1 percent, were to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
The overall global growth rate of China's outbound tourism improved after the 2.4 percent and 4.3 percent growth figures recorded in the first and second quarters of the year respectively, to reach 4.4 percent by the third quarter of 2016.
Among the major destinations for Chinese travelers, South Korea (up 85 percent year-over-year) and Vietnam (up 75 percent) recorded the biggest increases in the third quarter of 2016, while Japan was unable to maintain the triple-digit growth rates seen in 2015, instead recording an increase of 16 percent.
With a year-over-year decrease in arrivals of 28 percent, Taiwan saw the biggest drop among major destinations in Asia, a direct result of the restrictions placed by the Beijing government on the arrangement of organized travel groups, according to COTRI.
In Europe, all of the continent’s major destinations saw a decline in Chinese travelers, with not only France and Germany, but also Spain, Switzerland and Italy reporting double-digit declines.
On the other hand, smaller countries like Croatia, Iceland, Poland and Norway all enjoyed more than a 20 percent growth in arrival numbers from China. Safety concerns resulted also in increases in trips to Australia and New Zealand and even more so to the United States.
Commenting on the latest results, COTRI Director Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, said: “Our forecast that 2016 will be the first year to see more than half of all Chinese outbound trips going beyond Greater China seems to be holding up. The anxiety over possible terrorist attacks or disruptions caused by refugee movements has not resulted in Chinese travelers staying closer to home, but rather choosing new destinations perceived as less dangerous and more interesting. The massive downturn in arrival numbers to Hong Kong and Taiwan are more to do with political friction than a decrease in the demand for travel.”