EDITORIAL: Second tier outbound travel

Chengdu solidifying its position as a key source market for Chinese outbound travel

by Christopher Ledsham, M.A.

Chengdu’s hosting of the inaugural Travel Trade Market (TTM) this coming September 5-7 is highly indicative not only of the continued growth in stature of the Sichuan provincial capital, but also the increasing importance of second, third and even lower-tiered cities in the field of Chinese outbound tourism on the whole.

Focused on outbound source markets beyond first-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the B2B-focused industry event aims to provide international tour operators greater access to these untapped markets. Accordingly, TTM will not clash with the objectives of the existing Shanghai-based ITB China fair or the Beijing-based China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market (COTTM), but will instead address the needs of its own target audiences.

China’s second-tier cities’ increasingly prominence as centres of economic prosperity in their own right is accordingly being reflected in their status as drivers of outbound tourism market trends. According to Ctrip data, the list of the ten fastest-growing domestic markets for its modular-focused Customized Travel platform in 2017 was dominated by second and third-tier cities, with Chengdu having established itself as the product’s fourth-largest overall customer base.

Furthermore, since 2016, the collective number of second tier city residents contributed more to the total number of Chinese outbound travellers than those from first tier cities. This development has been fuelled by the rapidly-growing number of direct international flights and visa centres emerging in smaller cities across the country, which have served to facilitate opportunities for outbound tourism to hundreds of millions of potential new travellers who would previously have needed to have travelled to first tier cities in order to process tourist visas as well as access direct connections to overseas destinations.

Among second tier cities, Chengdu – a self-proclaimed hub for the ‘new economy‘ which proudly hosts the world’s largest building by floor area – will cement itself as a leading source market for Chinese outbound tourism when it becomes the third Chinese city (after Shanghai and Beijing) to be home to two international airports in 2020.

With the existing Shuangliu International Airport already serving 106 international routes to five continents, as well as further domestic routes, and receiving close to 50 million passengers in 2017 the opening of Chengdu Tianfu International Airport will see the city handle an anticipated extra 90 million travellers per annum and thereby firmly establish itself as an access point to the rest of the world for western China.

With consumers from increasingly-better connected second and third-tier cities driving further segmentation of Chinese outbound tourism, the emergence of the TTM fair should provide the industry with further opportunities to address the specific needs of customers from different source markets.

The most reliable dataset for 80 key China outbound tourism destinations

 

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