China’s outbound tourism grows 14% to destinations outside Greater China in the first half of 2017
Chinese outbound tourism has grown by 7% in the first half of 2017 from 64 million in 2016 to almost 69 million in the same period this year, according to the latest COTRI statistics. However, if the slow growth of just 1% to Greater China (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan) is taken into account, the Rest of the World still enjoyed a recovery and welcomed 14% more Chinese visitors compared to the first half of 2016.
Tourism statistics are difficult. If international arrivals are counted according to nationality, everybody is included, regardless of whether that person came from their home country for a trip or not. If you count according to residence, foreigners living in a third country, for instance a British expat working in China, will be included in arrival statistics. In many cases, the definition of “residence” will also differ. Most national tourism statistics are based on hotel registrations, leaving out private arrangements, small lodging providers and, in recent years, Airbnb and similar services. Surveys at ports of entry have a tendency to underreport visitors with perceived language difficulties or a reluctance to stop for an interview. Multi-national visas, such as the Schengen visa in Europe, and multiple-entry visas make it difficult to use visa applications as an indicator.
In China, there is also the additional problem of changes in the publication of travel statistics. In November 2014, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) stopped publishing – at least internally – monthly data for border crossings, changing instead to quarterly results. This changed again in 2016, since when data on outbound travel has only been provided on a half-yearly basis.
The CNTA’s means of calculating which trips are included has changed in recent years, though this definition has not been published. The result however is clear: outbound numbers from China are counted in a way meaning they are lower than they would have been under the previous method, ensuring that the official number of persons travelling into China and their expenditure figures are higher than the corresponding outbound numbers.
As a result, in 2016 even the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) stopped using CNTA numbers and now is relying other Chinese sources, while COTRI began to generate its own figures in 2015, based on reports from host sources.
With the newest data for the first half of 2017 having been just published by the China Tourism Academy (CTA) on behalf of the CNTA, the picture looks like this:
The COTRI forecast for 2017, published at the end of last year, totalled 145 million outbound border crossings from China. Looking at the results from the first half of the year, which always is a bit weaker than the second half, we may end up with a total of only 142 million border crossings, slightly below the original forecast. This acknowledges the uncertainty of what might be called the “Trump factor”.
by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt
The COTRI Weekly, 15 August 2017, 16:13