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How Chinese travel patterns are changing; Surprising Chinese surges to certain non-Asian markets

Growth in international Chinese travel outside Asia has been strongest in some unexpected places in the 12 months to October 2016, according to CiR Business Lounge. 

The top five destinations for growth have been Canada (+31.5%); Egypt and Iran in the Middle East (+28.8% and +28.6% respectively); Ethiopia in Africa (+26.2%); and USA (+25.5%). European countries failed to make the leader-board (see table below). The data come from a newly-updated report on the Chinese Passenger from duty-free and travel retail analyst and researcher, Counter Intelligence Retail, and show how diverse the propensity has become for Chinese travellers to explore new destinations.  

The past 12 months saw 40.0m (+19.1%) Chinese passengers travel internationally from China. While the majority (32.9m or 82%) are still travelling within Asia [see last week’s release: How Chinese travel patterns are changing], a significant – and increasing – number at 7.1m are going further afield. 

“Canada’s top ranking for growth can be attributed to the Canadian Government’s efforts to attract more Chinese passengers by allowing them visa-free transit through its airports,” says Garry Stasiulevicuis, President.

At Vancouver International for example, the Pacific coast gateway saw +15.6% additional passengers travelling to Asia Pacific as a whole, with new Chinese services added to Xiamen by Xiamen Airlines and to Hangzhou-Qingdao by Beijing Capital Airlines.

Meanwhile, the busiest airport in Canada, Toronto Pearson, inaugurated China Southern flights to Guangzhou – China’s third largest city – in December, and the hub is forecasting that demand for air travel to China will grow by 100% in the next four years, Passenger traffic from Toronto to China is estimated at 1.6m in 2016.

While Canadian and US airports have forged closer ties with China in recent years, other markets in the top five are more of a surprise. Egypt, which has suffered a tourism meltdown from Europe due to terrorism incidents, has recorded high growth in Chinese numbers – though from a small base – thanks to stronger targeting of this market. Iran, too, has also actively courted PRC travellers – particularly since sanctions were lifted in January 2016 – and while numbers also remain small they are set to grow quickly.   

The final top five growth market of Ethiopia, has built strategic links with China, notably in the business and construction sectors and has also agreed tourism cooperation strategies. Ethiopian Airlines has been active in developing Chinese routes and acts as a transfer hub in Africa – another reason for increased Chinese traffic. 

The absence of European countries in the top five last year reflects – to some extent at least – the security issues the region faces. Among the markets, it was Russia that had the highest growth in the year to October 2016, with traffic rising by +25% YoY which is circa 10% higher than many other of Europe’s major destinations according to the CiR Business Lounge data.

“Despite the geo-political situation in the country, Chinese passenger traffic to Russia has risen considerably. With Russian traffic to many European destinations still in decline, Asia – and China in particular – has become a key destination for Russian passengers in recent times. This in turn has opened up an opportunity for Chinese passengers to travel to and experience Russia as a holiday destination,” says Stasiulevicuis.

CiR are unveiling a range of new intelligence on the Chinese passenger from their sophisticated insight into shopper behaviours and traffic trends, including forecasts, which complements the newly available Chinese Shopper Tracker. For more information on the in-depth analysis available please contact; Simon@counterintelligenceretail.com +44 (0) 8459 013640


NB. PAX Source: CiR Business Lounge | Advanced Analytics Tool - Data based on Scheduled departing international passengers only. Data displayed for nationalities is based on residency through place of ticket purchase