Popular Chinese Travel Destinations
The most frequent international (non-Asian) destinations for Chinese travelers, based on the most recent available statistics (2003) were:
Europe 1.52 million
The most frequent Asian destinations for Chinese travelers were:
Hong Kong 6.4 million
Macau 4.4 million
South Korea 479,589
Source:Travel Industry Association, 2003
Edwin Fuller, president and managing
director of international lodging for Marriott International, calls
them his "billboard" hotels, the centerpiece of the hotel chain's
combined inbound/outbound strategy for China.
Fuller told investors and analysts that the company expects to have
75 branded hotels in China in the next 10 years (more than half of
those are already open).
speaking, hotels are thought of as providers of host services, but
Fuller told TravelWeekly.com that Marriotts Chinese hotels are
being built with something more in mind.
On one hand, they
will provide foreign visitors to China with a place to lay their
heads, but theyre also designed to inspire the local Chinese, who
eat at their restaurants, dance at their clubs and gawk at their
lobbies, to think Marriott when they travel abroad.
We want to be the
preferred brand of the Chinese who travel, and theres no better
billboard for your brand than your own hotels, he said. Fuller said
Marriott, which began opening hotels in China in 1996, projected
several years ago that China will become a giant source market for
Two years ago,
20.2 million Chinese traveled abroad, he said. Is that good?
Compare it for a moment with India. India sent only 4.2 million
that most of the Chinese outbound travel was regional, but he
thinks theres a huge pent-up demand, and the affluence to travel
farther is developing rapidly.
Marriott is not
the only hotel company that has its eye on China. Starwood Hotels
and Resorts, which is also pursuing an expansion strategy in China,
has 27 hotel properties in operation there under the St. Regis,
Westin, Sheraton, W and Four Points by Sheraton brands, according
to Miguel Ko, president of Starwoods Asia-Pacific
He said the deals
have left Starwood well-positioned with deluxe properties in major
and secondary cities in China that cater to the growing number of
international and domestic travelers traveling on business and
Both TUI, the
giant German travel conglomerate, and Cendant, its rival in the
U.S., are awakening to the potential of China. TUI has assigned its
TQ3 subsidiary to scout for business travel acquisitions, while
Cendant has already made two moves, acquiring U.K.-based Gullivers
Travel Associates, which does extensive business in China, and
purchasing a 40% stake in a Chinese e-business travel group, China
Youth Tour Service, both late last year.
The Swiss travel
services company Kuoni Reisen Holding said it is on the lookout for
a holiday tour company that specializes in China. Major U.S.
airlines from Continental to United are opening routes to China on
the heels of airport infrastructure development, and partnerships
with domestic low-cost airlines are scooping up licenses to serve
places in Chinas interior that were once only accessible by
has been interest in China for quite some time, the recent surge in
activity is due, in part, to the convergence of two events: the
2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and impending changes to World
Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on foreign investments in China
that will come into effect next January.
preventing majority foreign ownership of travel operations in China
are being relaxed, and that change may not be entirely unrelated to
the urgent need for tourism development to fully exploit the
interest in China that will be spurred by the Olympics.
hoping to capitalize on the changing trade agreements still need to
be aware that its not exactly as if the doors are wide open --
neither the way in or the way out.
It takes a
license, for example, to advertise travel to the U.S. from within
China. And although Nevada is the only government tourism
commission from the U.S. to hold such a license, rules prohibit it
from saying a word to Chinese travelers about the g-word --
We have many
other wonderful attractions here in Nevada, said State Tourism
Commission Director Bruce Bommarito, presumably with a straight
face. Shows and recreation. We promote those.
Nevada has taken
a leadership role in encouraging Chinese travelers to come to the
U.S. Bommarito led a delegation to China in mid-June to conduct
training seminars for domestic travel agents and private tour
operators who will be booking Chinese travelers into the U.S.
Helping travel companies and other government interests develop new
relationships with Chinas travel officials was also on the
the state has hosted Chinese travel writers and organized agent
familiarization trips to Las Vegas and other Nevada destinations as
a result of access and experience in becoming a licensee. That
experience has drawn corporate players across the board, who are
looking for good intelligence on the potentially rocky political
and social road that expansion in China can entail.
Weve had recent
conversations with the Radisson Group and Marriott and others, said
Bommarito, who also serves on the board of the Travel Industry
Association (TIA). Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Sheraton, all the major
brands are now in the major Chinese cities and expanding, he
arrangements at all levels are springing up between major and
midlevel players outside China and Chinese mainland organizations
in every sector of the travel economy.
Group, a Hong Kong-based travel and real estate development firm,
recently acquired a majority interest in Chinas largest timeshare
company, Teda Resort Alliance Developments, which controls about
80% of the travel timeshare market in China.
Godfrey Hui said that interest in timeshare properties in China has
shown rapid growth and is ripe for international
within China have had a boost from improvements in infrastructure,
from new airports, railroads, hotels and tour companies, and this
has occurred largely as a result of changes in internal rules
regarding privatization. Many of the largest private travel
agencies and tour operations in China were government-owned, but as
private companies theyre making infrastructure changes that benefit
foreign companies, both large and small, interested in doing
business within China.
From their cozy
headquarters in Santa Cruz, Calif., George Jammal and his wife,
Judy Yang, dont have to look far to see bright horizons for their
small China-centric travel business.
clientele at Kalantis Tours is fairly exclusive -- the company will
serve fewer than 200 U.S. tourists this year with highly personal,
escorted eco- and cultural trips -- Kalantis owners, too, are among
those seeing profound changes as the development of travel to and
from China affects business in positive ways.
Even as multinational travel
conglomerates like TUI, Carlson Wagonlit and Marriott rush into
China to develop business partnerships and make investments in
existing travel providers, the tourism development underway there
has become a rising tide lifting even the smallest of
One of our tours
involves a 10-hour bus ride over mountain roads to get to Jiuzhai
Gou and then to the nearby park at Huang Long, Jammal said. Its
beautiful scenery but a long time on a bus. Now theyve opened new
airport facilities just north of Cheng Du, which will make it much
easier for us to get travelers there. And if you look, the Chinese
are building new airports everywhere in the interior.
airports, new highways and new rail lines are cropping up
throughout the country, along with new luxury and leisure hotels
and new resources to make tourist visits more interesting and
diverse, providers say.
infrastructure, particularly that aspect of it involved in travel
agency and tour operations, is serving both the inbound and
outbound sides of the street. As more Chinese move into the
economic middle class, the number of travelers to international
destinations is growing. Companies that are participating in the
expanding network of travel agencies and tour supplies are helping
to develop the outbound as well as the inbound market.
And with the
Beijing Olympics just three years away, the Chinese government
itself has also been aggressively marketing tourism to China in
European, Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The number of
countries that have an Approved Destination Status agreement with
China has more than doubled in the past 18 months and continues to
grow. New advertising by the Chinese in major world capitals from
New York to Paris -- most of it related to the Olympics -- is
encouraging new visitors to experience China and to take advantage
of bargains that have been spurred by currency issues.
which seeks out unusual and out-of-the-way sights, like Chinas
flocks of rare black neck cranes near the magnificent Nine Village
Valley or the geologic wonders of South Chinas Stone Forest, all
roads not only lead to China but become two-way streets crowded
with new commerce.
four-star hotels in places where they were not available before,
said Jammal, whose wife worked as a travel agent and a tour guide
for the government-owned Chinese travel suppliers before coming to
That has helped
their niche tour business flourish on the heels of the
Westernization of tourism.
There are, of
course, two sides to the story, Jammal said. We have people who
sign up for our tours who say they want to come quickly, before the
natural culture of China is gone.
I dont think they
have to worry that things will change too fast, he said, chuckling.
But things are changing. A lot of things, for tourists, and for us,
are changing for the better.
set the stage
opening itself to foreign tourists in 1978 as it moved to normalize
relations with Western nations and to distance itself from the
Soviet economic models it had emulated since its one-party
government was formed in the late 1940s.
But tours for the
past two decades were tightly controlled events, with inbound and
outbound travel suppliers owned directly by the Chinese government
in a system that was beset with provincial rules that seemed to
characterize Chinas dated relationships with its
restrictions to carefully scripted descriptions of Chinese sights
and cultural facts, often recited with unerring political
correctness, tourists got a somewhat slender, limited -- and
official -- view of life in China, say those who operated in China
But as new
investment from outside China makes it way to the marketplace, this
also is changing, although tour operators and those involved in the
new wave of Chinese travel and tourism say it is likely to be an
its formerly government-controlled domestic and foreign travel
services to making visas easier to obtain and to extend -- you can
generally take one to any police station for a routine extension --
to accelerating foreign investment in its tourism industry and
infrastructure, the changes have become profound and
managing director of Los Angeles-based Ritz Tours, one of the
largest and most experienced of the major U.S. tour operators that
sell China, says the changes are already producing results for
stateside travel businesses.
Were seeing a lot
of growth right now, said Chan. Our best year was 2002, and were
expecting 2005 to meet that record year with more than 23,000 tours
It relates, in
part, to the Olympics, said Chan. Theyre planning to double the
number of five-star hotels in Beijing by the time the Olympics
developments beyond Beijing are also dramatic, he says. Look what
is happening to Shanghai, he said, Its a perfect example. Business
travel is growing astronomically there. And the rates at hotels are
going to $250 a night for business travelers, which, despite the
discounts they get, are about what leisure travelers are
China is getting
a good bounce as well from the currency controversy that continues
to swirl around the dollars performance against the euro, and
currency policies that peg the Chinese yuan renminbi to the U.S.
expensive for Americans to go to Europe right now, Chan said. So
people are looking at secondary choices, and they are seeing what a
really good bargain China is.
The boom expected
in outbound and domestic travel has Chan thinking about other
potential strategies that will engage his company, a firm that has
devoted more than 25 years to China and Asia travel.
We are hoping to
get involved in the domestic travel market within China as things
change, he said. And there are significant possibilities for us in
the market of Chinese travelers coming to the U.S.
Ritz Tours, which
has offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong, also is hoping to leverage
its understanding of doing business in China and recently opened a
new office in London to capitalize on European interest in
tell the story
Helping drive the
expanding tourism opportunities in China are changes that include
licenses for low-fare airlines that are building interior routes
between some 50 new airports developed in China within the past
three years. Since opening itself to foreign tourism and loosening
restrictions on domestic travel by its own people, Chinas 20
million outbound tourists reflect an increase of more than 370% since its tourism efforts accelerated
China has also
seen growth in affluence of its urban middle class, reflected in an
increase in discretionary spending for leisure activities of more
than 60% in the past five years.
And while most of
Chinas outbound travelers still fall into the short-haul category,
government numbers in this segment include Chinese possessions such
as Hong Kong and Macau, which are high on the list of outbound
Even so, the
number travelers to long-haul destinations has also increased, with
Europe the beneficiary of most of those visits.
suggest that the number of Chinese people who have the affluence
necessary to travel internationally continues to grow rapidly. It
estimated in a report late last year that some 247 million Chinese
have the resources for such travel, a number that could double
within 10 years.
convergence that has strengthened U.S.-Chinese two-way traffic are
changes in U.S. aviation policy.
direct flights from Newark to Beijing began operating on June 15.
Cooperation between the U.S. and China has also resulted in changes
in visa policies that allow business travelers from the U.S. to get
year-long, multiple-trip visas to better interact with business
meanwhile, said his small company has been offering direct visa
service to its tour clients, enabling them to mail passports to the
We drive them up
to San Francisco to obtain the visa from the Chinese consulate
there, which satisfies the requirement that visas be obtained
directly from Chinese authorities, he said. But we are also now
finding that [visas] are very easy to extend, so that if our
travelers want to extend their vacations, they can do
One of the other
positive things we are seeing is the new opportunities to find
better experts on the countrys culture and historic preservation
and ecology, said Jammal.
business as usual
There is still
some undesirable business as usual, but inroads are being made.
Tourist traps, retail operations in native goods that were once
routinely included as tour stops for foreign visitors to boost
provincial incomes under the government-owned travel services, are,
one-by-one, being deleted from itineraries under
tipping procedures -- amounting to $5 to $7 per head -- are also
activity that smacks of the bad, old days of government-controlled
itineraries remains a problem.
As we get closer
to the Olympics, the suppliers are handing out itineraries for
Beijing that include a day of touring the new Olympic buildings
instead of spending time at, say, the Great Wall or the Forbidden
City, said Jammal. And these are empty buildings, by the way. We
routinely delete those from our itineraries.
reporter Dan Luzadder, send e-mail to [email protected].