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Chinese outbound tourists top 100m

Favourable currency FX rates and other factors have resulted in 101.5m border crossings from mainland China for the first time.

The record-high figures relate to the number of journeys made between January and September 2016. Fewer than 50% of cross-border travellers remained within Greater China (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), according to data released by the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute.

While 49.8 million people travelled within Greater China, a drop of -6.2% Q3 2015, 51.7 million Chinese explored beyond the country’s borders, a growth rate of +3.3% year-on-year (YoY). The drop in travel within Greater China is despite moves by the Chinese government to promote domestic tourism.

High demand for travel services during national holidays is putting pressure on the rail infrastructure. On 25 November, a record 12.57 million people travelled by train, according to China Railway, and the organisation also says that a total of 108m train journeys were made during the holiday period spanning 28 September to 7 October, a growth of +9.3% YoY. To meet demand, 500 extra trains were put into operation to satisfy demand and, with roads also experiencing increased use, the Beijing Commission of Transport provided online maps to help travellers avoid lengthy congestion.

The number of people from China visiting Taiwan during Golden Week has fallen from around 8,000 people per day last year to 4,000 this year, according to an article in the South China Morning Post, the result of moves by the Chinese government to restrict travel to that country for political reasons.

Chinese travellers are favouring Japan, with visitors reaching an all-time high in July: 731,400 Chinese arrivals were recorded, up +26.8% YoY, explains an article in the Jing Daily.

Meanwhile, a crackdown by Thailand’s government on low-priced package tours, which it says are damaging the country’s image, saw visits down by 400,000 to 9.6m, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Spending in Britain has increased, due to the British pound hitting a 31-year low at the start of Golden Week in October and Chinese tourists’ concerns about safety in other European countries. Foreign tourists and business visitors spent 2% more this July than a year ago (1.79bn British pounds, 2.13bn euro) on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

Speaking to the Guardian in October, Global Blue’s UK managing director Gordon Clark said projections for the Golden Week period looked strong. ‘The UK is outperforming the rest of Europe and very much remains a key destination on Chinese travellers’ itineraries,’ he said. Clark anticipated that September and October tourist spending would follow August’s surge, which saw growth of +37% YoY in UK international tax free shopping.

Global Blue takeouts:

• Chinese mainland outbound tourism has reached a record high.

• European security concerns and a strong British pound have made the UK an attractive destination.

• For more on Chinese Tax Free Shopping spending in Europe, see our October data update.