The global tourism industry is set to be transformed over the next decade as tens of millions of Chinese families take their first trips abroad.
Bouyed by rising household incomes, they are forecast to make an estimated outlay of $50 billion on holiday spending in the 25 cities studied in a report commissioned by InterContinental Hotels Group, which identifies the Chinese middle class as the driving force of tourism.
It estimates that China overtook the US last year as the largest source of international travel spending.
The new forecasts suggest that 97 million foreign trips will be made by Chinese tourists by 2023, representing a 5.1% annual increase from the 67 million trips made last year.
A rising proportion of those trips will be long-haul as the travel restrictions that pushed Chinese towards domestic travel or short-haul Asian destinations vanish.
Improving Chinese GDP is pushing more families to a level of income where they can afford to satisfy their desire to travel.
The key threshold, according to Oxford Economics, which compiled the report for IHG, is $35,000 per household, the Times reported.
About 21 million Chinese households passed that barrier for the first time between 2003 and 2013. A further 61 million households will have reached a level where travel abroad becomes affordable by 2023.
The list of cities where Chinese travellers spend the most is topped by Bangkok, at $3.8 billion. Seoul, New York and Tokyo all make the top ten, while London lags in 24th position.
However, the IHG forecast suggests Chinese holiday spending in London will have risen by more than 18% a year between now and 2023, the highest forecast rate of leading tourist cities.
IHG chief executive Richard Solomons said that the report was “confirming the fact that the desire to travel is a very basic human instinct”. It does not take long after achieving a certain level of household income, he added, before families decide that they can afford to take that first trip abroad.”
The research also backed the company’s decision to create China-centric brand, Hualuxe, that would be expanded worldwide, he added.
The brand is designed to cater to the specific tastes of Chinese travellers, who have certain demands that are not necessarily met by other global hotel brands.
They include having special tea rooms and ensuring that breakfasts include the congee rice gruel without which many Chinese are unable to start their day, according to the newspaper report.
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