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China's Overseas Tourists Increasingly Value Experiences over Shopping

Dining and sightseeing top list of reasons for foreign travel

July 26, 2017

Travelers from China keep heading overseas in record numbers, and they’re bringing their wallets with them—although there’s been a dramatic shift in where they focus their spending.

According to data from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and online travel agent Ctrip, the number of outbound trips taken by travelers from China totaled 122 million in 2016, an increase of 4.3% from the previous year.

The increased travel has been fueled by the rise of China’s consumer class, along with the easing of travel rules by the government. These travelers, newly armed with disposable income, once largely focused on shopping. But that is increasingly no longer the case, according to new data from accommodation booking service

Instead, these tourists are seeking out experiences over material goods, according to the survey of outbound travelers from China conducted in May. The poll revealed that dining, sightseeing, and rest and relaxation were the top 3 reasons that travelers in China headed overseas. Meanwhile, one-third of respondents named shopping as a leading motivation for foreign travel.

Travelers’ planned increases in spending reflect this new desire for experiences. found that half of respondents planned to increase their overseas travel spending on dining, with the same percentage bumping up entertainment spending.

But travelers also expected to spend more on the logistics of traveling. Nearly one-third (31%) planned to augment spending on accommodation, while just over one-quarter (26%) said they would ramp up transportation outlays.

Outbound tourists from China are also relying heavily on payment cards to make purchases while in foreign countries, according to The survey found 62% named bank card service UnionPay as their preferred payment method when traveling outside of China, while 39% named Visa. More than one-third (36%) still relied heavily on cash.

Alipay, the digital payment service run by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, was named by 31% of those polled, while Tencent’s digital payment platform WeChat Pay was preferred by just 9%.

Both Alipay and WeChat Pay’s parent companies have been working hard in recent months to make their services more readily available to overseas tourists from China.

Earlier this month, payment processor Stripe, which provides individuals and merchants the ability to make and receive online payments similarly to PayPal, brokered partnerships with both Alipay and WeChat Pay that allowed users of the services to more easily make purchases outside of China.

And in May, Ant Financial reached an agreement with US-based point-of-sale terminal provider First Data Corp. that let Alipay users make payments at some 4 million merchants in the US.

Rahul Chadha


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