China / Society

Well-heeled travelers eye Latin America and Africa

By ERIK NILSSON (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-18 04:37

Chinese tourists aren’t just traveling the world - they’re redefining global travel.

The world’s largest outbound tourism market is "dictating the international tourism map", according to Xu Jing, the UN World Tourism Organization’s Asia-Pacific director.

Some have even booked trips beyond the planet - on private space flights.

Ten percent of the customers for XCOR Aeronautics’ space flights are Chinese. The company is one of two offering viable flights within the next three years. US arms laws ban Chinese from Virgin Galactic flights.

The Antarctic and Arctic rank No 2 on a three-year wish list among China’s "super travelers".

These are defined as people who take at least 18 trips a year and spend a minimum of $25,000 on at least one excursion, according to Hurun’s The Chinese Luxury Traveler (2014) report. Seven percent of the 203 super-rich surveyed want to visit space in the next three years, the report says.

These trends, as well as the decline in Chinese travel to Southeast Asia, have dominated recent headlines.

The No 1 and No 3 destinations on the super-rich travelers’ three-year wish list are Latin America - especially Bolivia - and Africa.

"When asked about their ‘must-achieve’ travel plans for the next three years, Bolivia took 36 percent of the vote and topped the list, followed by polar trips with 34 percent, while Africa ranked third and Mexico and Cuba tied for fifth place," the report says.

Trends in Chinese outbound travel are being shaped by the 98 million Chinese who headed overseas this year, an increase of nearly 18 percent compared with last year, according to the report.

The moderately affluent appear likely to continue making their first international trips in Southeast Asia.

Industry insiders say much of the reduction in travel to this region stems from the fact that many middle-class Chinese have already visited it and are looking for new experiences in East Asia, Europe and the United States.

Many in the top income bracket have already visited these destinations and are now setting their sights on exotic locations in Latin America and Africa.

But the big question is whether these two destinations can market themselves successfully to middle-class Chinese travelers. Being "mysterious" may not be enough.

No country from Latin America or Africa made the top 10 rankings for overseas destinations for the weeklong National Day holiday compiled by China’s biggest online travel-service company,

As Xu, the UN World Tourism Organization official, points out, it’s all about how countries court Chinese travelers.

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