Chinese FIT Travellers – no longer hostages to the tour guide

The stereotypical image of the typical Chinese tourist abroad is often still that of a tour group member, jumping off a coach to have a quick look and to take a selfie in front of a major landmark before jumping back onto the bus to simply repeat the same process again at the next destination.

Nevertheless, for the Chinese, travelling as part of a package group tour is no longer seen as a means of being able to gain prestige among their peer group back home and is consequently decreasing in popularity. As many Chinese continue to gain more international experience, they do not see it necessary to be held “hostage” by a tour guide.

“Second Wave” Chinese outbound travellers are instead taking full advantage of the opportunities for customisation and flexibility offered to them by international and Chinese online travel agencies (OTAs), as well as direct booking options, Airbnb and other similar online services. This trend is being further driven by the availability of multiple-entry visas (or other beneficial arrangements) in almost all major outbound destinations and a strong renminbi, which is particularly advantageous for high-end Chinese customers looking to organise travel arrangements either fully, or partly-independently.

An increasingly popular option for many FITs is what is labelled by leading Chinese OTA Ctrip as fragmented products, which result in an entirely new type of customer, which COTRI refers to as Chinese Modular Travellers (CMTs). While CMTs travel as FITs, they do book certain fragments of their trip from OTAs and other specialised online platforms in advance. This can be done easily from home or on the road directly from a smartphone and in renminbi. Such choices are especially popular for products and activities that travellers would not be able to book quickly and conveniently upon their arrival in their destination.

Accordingly, FIT travellers are responsible for almost all of the increase in Chinese outbound trips in 2017 so far, while the package tour market is stagnating or even decreasing in many destinations visited by Chinese outbound travellers.

Data from ForwardKeys reveals that, in July and August 2017, more than one third of all FIT Chinese outbound trips went to Thailand, Japan or the USA, while the fastest-growing destinations were Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the UAE, Czech Republic and Spain. In Taiwan and South Korea, however, almost all trips were FIT visits.

For further detailed analysis of Chinese outbound travel trends, drawn directly from exact airline booking numbers from China, join the COTRI-ForwardKeys joint premium webinar on Thursday Oct. 19th. It is not for free but worth the money. Further information regarding the webinar can be found at

The COTRI Weekly

Image: Barcelona 2017 by Sergio Fabara Muñoz, Source: Flickr , Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

COTRI Intelligence

COTRI Intelligence is the indispensable source of weekly consulting, analysis, data and news for everybody seriously interested in the post-pandemic Chinese outbound tourism market and changing Chinese consumer preferences.  COTRI Intelligence is published by COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute and edited by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS. Regional partners and Content partners [...]

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