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UPDATE: Rising Chinese travel trends 2015

By Juwai, 18 August 2015
chinese tourist antartica

Chinese tourists are trailblazing their way out of China, marking their presence known – all the way to the ends of the earth.

Recent data shows that the popularity of polar exploration is surging amongst China’s rich and wealthy, with more Chinese jetsetters now willing to splurge on travel to the North or South Pole.


Polar explorations booms

36% of affluent Chinese super-travellers – Chinese tourists with a wealth of over US$1.6 million (¥10 million) and who spend a minimum US$30,000 while travelling abroad – voted the North and South Pole as their dream travel destination.1

Not only that, one-third of affluent Chinese super travellers toured either the Arctic or Antarctica last year.1 That was 3,042 Chinese who journeyed to Antarctica in 2014-2015, compared to a mere 99 Chinese visitors 10 years ago.2

These destinations aren’t cheap either, considering a 12-day trip to Antarctica can rack up a US$31,254 (¥200,000) bill, while a 20-day voyage to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island could cost US$46,880 (¥300,000).2

And yet, most – if not all – happily spend this money with no regret on their polar experience.

China’s super-travellers considered their trips to the North and South Poles as their most memorable vacation abroad – leading by a wide margin ahead of second-placed US and third-placed Europe.1

This is further testament to the ongoing evolution of China’s luxury travellers, who increasingly seek experiential holidays, and are developing a taste for novel and extreme experiences to challenge themselves.


Rise of the underwater kingdom

Gravitating away from the icy oceans of the North and South Poles to the warm waters of the Maldives, these evolving Chinese travellers are also fast becoming diving enthusiasts.

10,955 Chinese visitors flocked to the pristine water paradise of the Palau islands last February during the Chinese New Year Golden Week break.3

That's a 500% increase y-o-y that not only made up 62% of all foreign visitors to Palau that month, but is also more than half of the local population on Palau.3

This growing passion for exploring the underwater kingdom is driven by the easing of visa policies from various countries, as well as the seemingly incessant Chinese quest for unique holidays experiences.

Not only has the number of qualified divers from China charted grown by 41% last year4, revenues from China’s diving-related tourism is also slated to surpass US$333 million (¥2.13 billion) in 2015 – a stark contrast to US$70 million (¥450 million) in 2010.6

This is further corroborated by the fact that popularity of diving hotspots around the world has steadily gained popularity amongst China’s ultra-rich.

Australia – famed for its numerous diving havens including the Great Barrier Reef and The Yongala – tops the favourite international travel destination of China’s well-heeled.5

Maldives, famed for its crystal clear waters, is ranked third on the list. Hawaii and Thailand, both world-renowned for their beautiful diving spots, make the cut at 11th and 12th spots respectively.5

One Chinese investor has become such an avid diver that he’s switched careers to invest in diving resorts overseas. Denys Yao – a financial analyst turned co-founder of Shanghai-based diving company ScubaCrew –recently purchased a dive resort on Malaspascua Island in the Phillippines.6


Beauty and medical tourism flourish

The fast-growing wealth of Chinese has also led to a burgeoning demand for top-notch beauty and medical services abroad.

This trend is especially apparent in South Korea, whereby over 56,000 Chinese medical tourists sought its world famous plastic surgery services last year, charting a record 350% increase from 2013.7

In other segments of medical tourism, here are 5 popular destinations8:

  • US: The #1 medical destination for Chinese HNWIs (high net worth individuals), thanks to its top-ranked hospitals and medical resources. Price and long travel time is no issue, as the first-rate medical services in the US more than make up for it.
  • Japan: Its close proximity to China, cutting-edge medical technology, and relatively cheaper cost places the Land of the Rising Sun at 2nd spot. Japan is also one of the only two countries that offer visionary heavy ion radiotherapy as a cancer treatment.
  • Germany: The German reputation for superior and meticulous medical services has made it a top choice for Chinese, especially those seeking hematology, oncology, orthopedics, and stem cell treatments.
  • UK: Renowned for treating heart, cancer, and nerve diseases, UK’s popularity surged after China’s retired Olympics champion hurdler Liu Xiang ensconced himself at Wellington Hospital in London for sports medicine.
  • Singapore: As one of Asia’s top country for medical technology, Singapore’s proximity to China, as well as its cuisine that is relatively familiar to the Chinese palate has rendered it a popular choice for Chinese medical tourists.


Chinese tourism impact on international property

With mobility being such a driver of property investment, new tourism destinations that gain popularity with Chinese travellers quickly become top of mind as property investment destinations.

Unsurprisingly, many of the destinations above also appear on Juwai’s list of top 10 countries for Chinese buyers.9

The US tops the list at #1, followed by Australia at #2 while the UK comes in at #4. Germany ranks #9 on the list, and Singapore rounds it up by coming in at the #10 spot.9

Housing markets in Japan and South Korea have also been showing strong performances in an otherwise dismal Asian market scene – Japan’s housing market increased 6.32% while South Korea’s market grew 1.31%.10

Given how much Chinese tourism can propel Chinese property investments abroad, many real estate agents and brokers consider this to be a stepping-stone to making a mark within the Chinese property buying market.

If this is your prerogative, there is no time better than now, with the 2015 National Week Golden Week slated to be bigger than ever.

Close to 5.2 million Chinese went abroad during this year’s Chinese New Year Golden Week alone, spending roughly US$22.4 billion overseas11 – which means opportunity may be knocking soon. Whether it’s your door or someone else’s is up to you!



Sources: 1. Hurun Report Chinese Super Luxury Travellers Survey 2015; 2. International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO); 3. Palau Visitors Authority; 4. PADI; 5. Hurun Report “Best of the Best Awards 2015”; 6. SCMP; 7. China Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery Association; 8. SCMP; 9. Juwai data (Q1 2015); 10. Juwai Global Property Index Report Q1 2015; 11. China National Tourism Administration