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China millennials reshape travel economy

News, 14 December 2015

SHANGHAI: Chinese New Year is the largest human migration on the planet, and research indicates that more Chinese millennials are looking abroad for the February holiday season as the popularity of international travel booms.

According to a GfK Consumer Life survey, reported in Campaign Asia-Pacific, China reached 100 m outward bound travellers for the first time in 2014. Preliminary 2015 numbers show the record was smashed as more than 109m Chinese travelled abroad, spending more than US$29bn overseas..

By 2020, the research anticipates more than 200m Chinese will be holidaying abroad, and spending more than US$400bn in destination markets.

More than half of China's outward bound travellers are under 30 years of age, and 87% of all Chinese travelling internationally are less than 44 years old.

And they are spending more than ever – two thirds of Chinese millennials are classed as "high income" and exhibit very different travel behaviour to older travellers from China. Unlike older generations, they are more likely to shy away from tour groups and organise their own trips. They are also more hedonistic, less price sensitive, and love to share their trips on social media channels such as WeChat.

All of these differences mean that the tourism sector – from hotels, to experiences, to airlines – must re-tool its brand strategy to appeal to a younger Chinese demographic looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience – and one they are likely to share with all of their friends on social media.

Hong Kong, a traditional mainstay of Chinese tourism, has declined in popularity with Chinese tourists. But Australia and New Zealand are seeing huge growth in Chinese tourists year on year, as travellers take advantage of the southern hemisphere summer to travel during peak Chinese New Year period.

A report from Tourism Research Australia earlier this year found that Chinese visitors to Australia are not only the fastest-growing group of tourists down under, they are also the biggest spenders. One in eight visitors to Australia is from China and they account for almost 20% of all tourist expenditure.

In February 2015, Tourism New Zealand reported that there were more Chinese holiday visitors in New Zealand than from any other country, surpassing the number of visiting Australians, and equalling the total for Americans, Canadians and British combined.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific, news.com.au; additional content by Warc staff