EDITORIAL: Outbound statistics and Overtourism

Growing numbers of Chinese outbound tourists can in fact help alleviate the effects of overtourism

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear readers,

With more statistics for December 2017 now available, we can confirm that our forecast of 145 million border crossings from Mainland China in 2017 has been accurate, with 69.5 million trips ending in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and 75.5 million trips going further to the rest of the world.

For 2018, the COTRI forecast is 154 million border crossings, out of which 70.5 million will end in Greater China and 83.5 million go beyond. The additional nine million trips will therefore be very unevenly distributed: Greater China will see an increase of only one million arrivals, whereas the rest of the world will be able to welcome eight million more arrivals.

For 2030, COTRI forecasts a total number of trips of at least 400 million. That also means that out of the 600 million additional trips in international tourism forecasted by UNWTO, bringing the total from 1.2 billion in 2017 to 1.8 billion by 2030, almost half of them will originate in China.

In 2012, the hashtag #overtourism appeared on Twitter for the first time. But only last year the deterioration of the quality of life of the citizens in European cities as diverse as Venice, Barcelona, Passau, Cinque Terre, and Dubrovnik was blamed on this new phenomenon. Hundreds of journalistic articles were published and several conferences organized by UNWTO, WTTC and the WTM London discussed the growing number of – sometimes violent – protests by the inhabitants of destinations who feel to become dispossessed of their city under the simultaneous attack of increasing numbers of arrivals of “normal” tourists, cruise ship passengers and AirBnB users. Chinese tourists feature of course also in this debates.

As your humble author had the opportunity to point out during the opening of the ITSA International Tourism Studies Association London office last week in Greenwich, Chinese are however not only a part of the problem, but can also be a part of the solution. It is very hard to keep Chinese first time visitors to Paris from going up on the Eiffel Tower, but as the number of Chinese repeat visitors is growing, these guests arrive with much less fixed ideas what is the “must see” location and the “normal” time to visit. Many destinations represent a white sheet of paper for Chinese visitors, by creating attractions adapted to the needs of the Chinese source market temporal and spatial dispersion possible.

On this optimistic note, let us wish all of our readers a peaceful and profitable Dog Yang Earth (Wu Xu 戊戌) Year!


Prof. Dr. Arlt and the COTRI Weekly Team