The rise of the ‘new first-tier cities’
While Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou remain the top 3 departure cities for Chinese outbound tourists, there has been a remarkable growth in the rise of “new first tier cities”, data for the first half of 2017 from leading Chinese OTA Ctrip has revealed. Although travellers from throughout the country will still use major first tier cities Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou as their point of departure for leaving the country, the growth in departures from smaller cities has been fuelled by the increase in flight connections to airports in around the country, as well as a number of visa centres opening to increase the possibilities for outbound travel.
The increase in visa centres is particularly significant, since it means that it is no longer necessary for potential Chinese outbound travellers to travel to first-tier cities just to apply for the visa alone, meaning that the opportunity to go overseas has become significantly easier for Chinese consumers throughout the country. It is in this sense that regional cities such as Harbin, Kunming and Changsha can be understood to be part of the “new first tier”.
Compared to the first half of 2016 Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have retained their first, second and third-ranked positions as the top departure points for outbound travel in passenger numbers respectively. China’s other first-tier city Shenzhen – which notably is close to major travel hub Hong Kong – lost its fourth-placed ranking to Sichuan provincial capital in southwestern China. Other cities to have climbed in their ranking over the past year were Wuhan (rising from 9th to 8th place), Changsha (13th to 12th), Kunming (16th to 13th), Harbin and Nanning.
In terms of per-head spending, the picture looks very different, with Suzhou topping the table at an average spend of RMB 7123 (ca. USD 1091), while Guangzhou and Shenzhen failed to make the top 20.
The COTRI Weekly, 12 September 2017, 14:27