Chinese outbound tourist demographics continue to shift among increased travel options

With increasing numbers of Chinese outbound travellers gaining more overseas experience, a definition of the typical Chinese tourist is becoming more elusive than ever. While Chinese outbound tourism had in previous years been dominated by package tourists drawn from largely similar backgrounds, the increase in independent FIT travel possibilities – and other “second wave” travel options – means that a multitude of new trends are appearing within the market.

While much of this is being driven by growing experience among travellers themselves, trends are also being further driven by external developments, including: relaxed visa policies, increased numbers of direct flight connections and visa application centres as well as the greater opportunities for flexibility offered by internet booking services.

However, as the Chinese have grown to be the largest group of outbound tourists by nationality – numbering close to 137 million in 2016 – for many in China’s consumer class simply having been overseas is no longer a “bragging right” in the way it once was. What has happened among Chinese with more overseas experience, however, is that international travel has become a lifestyle expression in itself. Longer considering it sufficient to photograph world-famous landmarks from a tour bus, many are now seeking out deeper engagement with more novel destinations as a means of lifestyle affirmation.

With the travel options being undertaken by seasoned Chinese tourists continually expanding beyond group package tours, the demographics of those taking such trips are changing too. The Chinese source market is becoming increasingly segmented and younger and older travellers are joining the conventional working-age demographic of tourists.

The jiulinghous (born during the 1990’s and after) that were introduced to overseas travel by their parents as teenagers are now experienced themselves and are at the forefront seeking out novel destinations. Furthermore, the next wave of ever-younger Chinese linglinghous (born after 2000) are being brought along by their parents as part of family groups or are being sent overseas on school tours for educational purposes.

Nevertheless, it is not only the next generation of Chinese taking advantage of increased options for international travel. “Best agers” – aged 55 and above – for example are now making up around 18% of the market. This includes not only those born in the 1950s who benefitted from the economic boom and wish to enjoy their retirement, but also those born in the 1940s, whose adult children may buy them a vacation as a means of compensating for not being able to spend as much time with them as they feel they should.

As the age groups continue to diversify, the tastes and trends of those travelling do accordingly too. This is bringing different challenges to destinations in terms of suitable products, accommodation, food, accessibility and activities.

Nevertheless, while the experienced end of the market – predominantly living in first-tier and larger second-tier Chinese cities – are diversifying in their tastes, there is still a large number of Chinese residents of smaller second-tier, as well as third-tier cities and below, that are looking to take their first trips abroad. These travellers will typically start first venture overseas part of a group tour, yet their options for doing so are becoming increasingly diverse on account of improved direct flight options and visa centres in smaller Chinese cities.

With flight routes and demographic detail playing an increasingly-important role in analysing the Chinese outbound tourism market, COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute and ForwardKeys – which specialises in predicting future travel patterns through the analysis of 17 million booking transactions a day – have come together to collaborate on a premium webinar series tackling key topics in the Chinese outbound tourism market. As well as covering the shifting demographics of Chinese outbound tourists and provide both historic and forward-looking statistics, the webinars will also look deeper to discuss why people are travelling, the manner and number in which they are doing so and also considering itineraries and the reactions of individuals. Crucially, the webinars will be interactive and allow participants to ask their own questions.

If you’re interested in joining the upcoming webinars or would like to receive some more information, please send a message to

Image: Flickr

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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