FITs drive Chinese outbound traveller growth in 2017: China Outbound Pulse

Free independent travellers (FITs) have been revealed as being responsible for almost all growth in Chinese outbound tourist numbers in 2017, according to the recently launched China Outbound Travel Pulse series.

The Chinese outbound travel market is currently composed of approximately 40% fully-FIT travellers, 40% modular “semi-FIT” travellers (who choose to book small parts of their trip in small “modular” packages) and the remaining 20% of the market being made up of package tourists. While group travel will continue to remain a feature of the Chinese outbound travel market as increasing numbers of lower-tier city residents take their first overseas trips, growth in package tours is stagnating or even decreasing in numerous destinations.

While in numerous Western economies independent travel is regarded as an activity for “budget” tourists, in China the opposite is true, since it is more experienced and typically wealthier people who travel as FITs. In order to gain prestige, more experienced Chinese outbound travellers look to reaching destinations that are more “off the beaten track”, which are considered more distinguished than those crowded with other Chinese visiting in groups. The trend is being further fuelled by the increasing ease and freedom for outbound tourism from China, facilitated by numerous improvements in travel-related apps and other relevant software, as well as increasingly simplified visa restrictions for Chinese nationals.


Flight data from ForwardKeys cited in the first China Outbound Travel Pulse video revealed that in July and August 2017, more than one-third of Chinese FITs to have travelled by plane chose to fly to Japan, Thailand or the United States. Furthermore, in comparison to data collected in the equivalent period in 2016, the fastest-growing destinations for FITs were revealed to be: Canada, Australia, the UAE, Malaysia, the Czech Republic and Spain.

Focused on the topic of FITs, the first episode of the China Outbound Travel Pulse Series features numerous interviews with outbound travellers in Beijing airport – providing first-hand insight into market trends – as well as a topical overlook of the subject to provide context.

Co-produced by COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute and Chinese digital marketing agency Dragon Trail Interactive, the series will delve into various key aspects and themes in the field of Chinese outbound tourism every two weeks.

Videos can be found at the designated China Outbound Pulse YouTube channel

Further information can be found at:

Image: Screenshots, Episode n.1 – Free Independent travellers, Dragon Trail Interactive & COTRI Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute