Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel Guide to the Chinese Tourist

Love me, love my wallet

With China’s National Day Golden Week holiday recently ended, this Forbes magazine artlcle provides a useful updated summary of the types of Chinese tourists that are increasingly making their way into the world. While the image of the stereotypical uncouth, great unwashed Chinese tourist cramming into souvenir and luxury shops with camera phones at the ready is an easy butt of jokes, their numbers and spending exuberance are no laughing matter. Estimates are that in 2012, 83 million Chinese traveled overseas and spent $102 billion. For sluggish economies around the world, those are welcome figures.
The article breaks out the Chinese tourist into five broad groups:
Business tourist: Generally entrepreneurs and business owners looking to expand their enterprises overseas. They attend conferences and meetings, but also spend big bucks shopping for family and friends back at home.
Student tourist: Not your typical $10/day teenager. Chinese students overseas are often backed by doting parents who don’t think twice about ensuring that their sole child is well pampered. One MBA student studying in London admitted to spending on average $5,000 per month for general expenses.
Adventure tourist: This category may sound like an oxymoron when associated with the Mainland Chinese. However there is little doubt that, amongst 1.3 billion people (of whom some are finding themselves with more time on their hands), there are those looking for the less-trodden discretionary experience. Scuba diving, mountain climbing and backpacking fall into this category.
Danwei tourist: “Danwei” means work unit. The modern day equivalent of this Communist concept is a department in a Chinese corporation. Some companies give their workers the perk of traveling overseas to learn and broaden their horizons. Given that these folks get to travel on the corporate dime, they tend to be loose with their pocket money. All told, their total spend can be up $10,000 per person per trip.
Locust tourist: By numbers, group tours are still the largest and most conspicuous segment of the Chinese tourist market.This disparaging characterization will be particularly familiar to the much maligned Hong Kongers who feel that their city-state has been swarmed in the past few years by the Mandarin-speaking hordes. The “locusts” have been accused of everything from buying up baby formula, taking up scarce hospital beds, jacking up retail rents and real estate prices, and soiling public transport systems with their appalling sense of hygiene.
For a number of Western countries, including the US and France, Chinese tourists may soon become the most important source of tourist dollars. And meanwhile, the Chinese government is taking pains to try to clean up the manners and image of their people. Therefore, given the steadily increasing quality and quantity of the Chinese visitor, foreign residents should come to realize that, far worse than the sometime-annoying presence of these masses, is the tinny echo of their absence.

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