BEIJING: A sharp decline in tourism within Greater China has resulted in a growth rate of just 3.4% in the first half of 2016 compared with the same period last year, but international markets still saw a 16% increase in Chinese travellers.

These are the latest figures from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), which recorded 64m border crossings from Mainland China between January and June 2016, Luxury Daily reported.

COTRI, which defines Greater China as including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, said there was a 7% fall in travel within the area during the first half of the year and that this had pulled down the overall growth rate.

However, COTRI Director Prof Dr Wolfgang Georg Arlt played down the slower growth rate as he explained that domestic factors contributed to the fall.

"At first sight a growth rate of 3% seems very dramatic, especially after all the double-digit growth rates witnessed during the last decade," he said.

"However, a closer look reveals that it is mainly the dramatic reduction of the number of Mainland Chinese from Guangdong visiting Hong Kong which has led to this slowdown.

"Access restrictions for residents of the neighbouring city Shenzhen, as well as the growing allure of Seoul and Tokyo as alternative shopping destinations, have resulted in the negative trend seen in the Hong Kong SAR."

International markets, which increasingly depend on the spending power of Chinese tourists, will be encouraged by the 16% increase in Chinese outbound travellers, and Thailand, South Korea and Japan all saw high numbers of arrivals in the reporting period.

COTRI said it did not expect the number of outbound trips to reduce in the coming months, but expected recent reports of terrorism in parts of Europe, as well as Thailand, to influence the Chinese choice of destination.

Prof Arlt said it could lead "to a shift away from places considered unsafe to supposedly safer, alternative destinations such as Italy, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand".

Data sourced from Luxury Daily, COTRI; additional content by Warc staff