Year of the Rooster is a wake-up call for tourism to Europe

| January 5, 2017
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More visitors – despite security concerns

The Chinese are returning to Europe to celebrate their New Year – the Year of the Rooster – at the end of January, after a dip in numbers in 2016, most likely due to concerns over terrorist threats, according to ForwardKeys, the travel intelligence company, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 16 million flight reservation transactions each day.

Although security concerns remain, as of December 30th 2016, bookings to Europe for the start of the Chinese lunar calendar year on January 28th, were 68.5% ahead, compared to a 7.4% fall in visitor numbers last year.  Whilst at first sight this looks like very good news for Europe’s tourism industry, ForwardKeys cautions that the outlook may not be as positive as the 68.5% number suggests because it is possible that bookings have just been made at an earlier date than in previous years.

Nevertheless, benchmarked against the equivalent period in 2015, before terrorist threats damaged European tourism, bookings are still +56% ahead, with Northern European and Central/Eastern European destinations showing the greatest gains in popularity.

ForwardKeys also reveals that the global number of international Chinese air travel bookings to all destinations, made in December for the busy period from January 18th to February 1st, is ahead by 9.8%.

Most departures are concentrated in the four days immediately before the 2017 Golden Week dates which run from January 27thto February 2nd. The average length of stay is eight days.

In addition to Europe, South East Asia, currently ahead 12.2%, accounts for this year’s growth. Malaysia is ahead 46.3%, Indonesia 44%, Vietnam 37.8% and Philippines 31.8%, all possibly due to improved political and economic relations after visits by President Xi.  The top destination is Thailand, followed by Japan and Taiwan.

In Europe, Spain is the fastest-growing destination for Chinese to celebrate their New Year. It’s ahead 89%, followed closely by the UK on 88%, and Italy, 59%. Despite suffering numerous terrorist attacks, France is ahead 49%.

Central and Eastern Europe are also seeing more bookings, thanks to the popularity of Russia and improved connectivity with Czech Republic. Turkey is the sole exception among top markets, behind 14% as terrorism continues to hit the country.

As for who’s travelling, it appears to be mostly families of up to four people who make up 51% of the total. Travellers from the first-tier cities – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou – are more likely than their counterparts travelling from smaller cities to travel beyond Asia, 36%, and to use online travel agencies, 26%.

But looking to the future, departures from the smaller, second-tier cities are growing faster, although they still only represent a 34% share of outbound travel.

Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys, said: “Yet again, we see that Chinese travelling abroad for the New Year is a driver of global growth, which is good news for business. But the real news is that Chinese travel trends are evolving – Chinese travellers are becoming more adventurous; they are prepared to seek out new destinations. What’s also interesting is the return to Europe, demonstrating tourism’s resilience to the terrorist threats that impacted the region last year.”

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