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World Travel Market: China leads way as 2017 destination hotspot

Asian powerhouse China was widely tipped as a destination to watch at the World Travel Market.

Over the past few years all eyes have been firmly on Chinese travellers as the dominant force reshaping the global travel sector. While this remains the case, China itself is coming under the spotlight as an increasingly attractive destination.

At trade show World Travel Market in London earlier this month, the WTM Industry Report 2016 found that 55% of travel firms expect to do more business in China next year. It also found that a fifth of UK travel consumers are interested in travelling to China.

The report noted that new flight links between China and Europe, as well as regionally within Asia, are helping to grow tourism in the country, just as they have boosted outbound tourism. In 2015, international tourist arrivals to China reached almost 57 million and this year inbound trips are expected to surpass 62 million.

Changes to visa regulations are helping to encourage longer-stay visitors in China too. Since 1 October 2016, cruise tourists arriving into Shanghai have been able to stay in China for up to 15 days visa-free, although where these visitors can travel is restricted to major and port cities.

Domestically, China’s domestic tourist numbers are expected to grow by double-digit figures this year, driven by increasing levels of disposable income among the Chinese middle class.

Emergent India 

Alongside China, India is expected to become a more visited destination in 2017. The WTM found that 49% of show exhibitors expect to conduct more business in India next year and a fifth of UK consumers are interested in travelling there.

This follows Indian government investment in tourism infrastructure of more than $300m dollars (283m euro) as it targets more than 13 million visitors a year by 2020. In 2015, inbound arrivals topped 8 million.

Popular destinations include the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, Rajasthan and the coastal regions of Goa and Kerala. Tourism development is being focused on new sectors such as luxury, cruise and eco-tourism.

Cuba, another popular destination according to the WTM report, is set to benefit from the lifting of restrictions on US travellers and new scheduled flights to the Caribbean island from eight US airlines.

Resurgent destinations

Travel destinations Egypt, Greece and Turkey have been hit hard in recent years by political uncertainty and terrorist attacks but there are signs of renewed interest from tour operators. Of the 2,000 buyers surveyed for the report, more than half were planning to link with suppliers from those markets during the show and eight out of 10 were close to signing deals.

Global Blue takeouts:

• China and India, Asia’s strongest growth economies, are becoming increasingly popular as travel destinations.

• China is easing visa restrictions for some visitors as it looks to encourage longer stays.

• In India, substantial government investment in infrastructure is helping grow the travel and tourism sector, while there is a growing focus on niche sectors including luxury and cruise.