Editorial: CTA statistics

Chinese tourism statistics - The Numbers Game

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear readers,

Several statistics published last week in China provide new data for the Chinese outbound tourism for 2018, but do not necessarily help to clarify the development – rather the opposite.

On several occasions throughout 2018, CTA China Tourism Academy published a total number of outbound trips from Mainland China by Mainland Chinese citizens of 130.51 million. In the “2017 Tourism Statistical Bulletin”, published on Dec. 28th, 2018 gave a rounded figure of 131 million.

Last week, however, a new report from CTA was widely cited in Chinese publications, saying that 140 million outbound departures from Mainland China took place in 2018, which represented an increase of 13.5% from 129 million departures in 2017. The small difference between 131 and 129 million aside, it is nevertheless clear that 129 million plus 13.5% does not result in 140 million, but in 146 million. If the 140 million number is correct, the starting amount would have to in fact be 123 million.

Tencent and a company called Talking Data published also last week the “2018 Tourism Industry Development Report”. This report used 148 million total outbound departure with the same increase of 13.5%, which would mean that the 2017 number had been – 130.5 million!

The most interesting statistics however was provided also last week by another Chinese authority, the China State Immigration Administration. In this report, a total of 340 million border crossings made by Mainland Chinese in 2018 was announced, including travels in both directions. That would mean, as one trip counts as one departure plus one return, that about 170 million Mainland Chinese spend some time outside of the Mainland. Some of the departures in 2018 might not have resulted in a return in the same year as they were conducted by emigrants leaving China for good and by students and expats leaving for more than one year and therefore not supposed to be counted in tourism statistics, but that would only change the total number by just a few hundred thousand trips.

As COTRI reported last week, the total number of border-crossings from Mainland China by Mainland Chinese citizens according to the calculations of COTRI Analytics for 2018 is 162 million trips, an increase of 12% over the 145 million trips in 2017.

The biggest driver last year were the day-trips to Hong Kong SAR, which increased by approximately five million – or 20% – to 30 million in total and the day-trips to Macau SAR, which increased by approximately 15% to 12 million. If one would deduct these day trips to the SARs plus another two million day trips to Vietnam, Russia and other neighbouring countries, we can see that about 118 million out of 162 million border crossings by Mainland Chinese resulted in at least one overnight outside of Mainland China.

In summary, looking at the various numbers coming out of China of 140, 148 and 170 million trips including day trips in 2018, COTRI Analytics’ 162 million trips doesn’t seem too bad – if we may say so.

With best wishes for the week
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS and the COTRI Weekly team.