The rise of the independent Chinese traveller

February 25, 2016
By Helena Beard

While group tourism still features heavily on the landscape of Chinese outbound tourism, global destinations and attractions are recently welcoming a very different type of traveller. Once synonymous with the Chinese tourist, more and more Chinese are now ditching the gruelling itineraries and service station suppers of group tours, replacing them with independent adventure. The new Chinese tourist demands unique and authentic experiences from their trip, and has the cash to pay for it.

Around 80% of independent Chinese travellers have an annual income over 60,000 RMB (£6,500). This may sound low by British standards, but when you consider that the average annual income of a Chinese urban resident is around 24,500 RMB (£2,600), as well as the country’s relatively low living cost (and that these travellers will happily pay $250 for a night’s stay at a hotel) it is clear that there is plenty of disposable income behind the growing tourism numbers.

Here are their credentials: these independent travellers are younger, 60% being within the consumer “sweet spot” of between 25 and 45. They are more educated, with over 70% having at least a Bachelors Degree. They are also far more adventurous, preferring to wonder off the beaten track of famous landmarks in favour of one-off travel experiences not featured on group tours. Surprisingly, one successful product for Chinese tourists visiting the U.S. was a visit to an indoor shooting range.

Asia was the favourite destination for 55 per cent of Chinese independent travellers, due to its proximity, but Europe came in second, with 9.7 per cent choosing Paris as their first choice for a romantic European break. North America came third at 10 per cent of all outbound independent travel. Interestingly, women led the trend for independent overseas travelling, accounting for nearly 62 per cent of outbound travellers in 2015, despite having a lower average wage.

Professor Wolfgang Georg Arlt of China Outbound Tourism Research Institute [COTRI] recently published an article about a new phenomenon called Chinese modular travellers on his Forbes blog. He defines modular travellers as those who plan their own trips to gain unique experiences and explains that, whilst they are a relatively new concept in China, they have altered the consumption patterns of Chinese tourists. They have inadvertently opened the doors to specialized online platforms who organize parts of the trip, like booking tickets for an opera show, while guaranteeing freedom of choice for the traveller. This means that there are now more plentiful, more direct and easier routes to attract attention of the Chinese tourist. All of which we can help you with!

Fully independent outbound tourism is growing even faster than foreign travel in general, and the market is still in its infancy. Sign up to our newsletter (see below) for more interesting news and opinion about trends in the Chinese outbound travel market!


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