Chinese travelers see Europe -- and the UK in particular -- as a big sale sign and are taking advantage of that after an uncertain year in Europe while many will also choose to travel domestically this year and in countries closer to home such as Thailand and Japan.
Chinese New Year, one of the year’s busiest travel periods for the world’s largest travel market, will likely be a stronger holiday for Chinese travelers this month than it was last year.
That’s particularly evident with Europe which suffered multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul, for example, last year that kept many travelers away, according to data released this week by ForwardKeys, a tourism data company, which analyzed 16 million Chinese flight bookings for January and February.
Chinese flight bookings to Europe for Chinese New Year, which begins January 27 and lasts through the first week of February, are up 68.5 percent as of December 30 compared to the same period last year. That’s the largest year-over-year percentage increase of any region and European flight bookings account for 11 percent of all flights Chinese travelers will take during their new year holiday period.
Overall Chinese New Year flight bookings are up nearly 10 percent globally compared to last year and while China and Southeast Asia will account for the largest share of travelers during the holiday period (39 and 28 percent, respectively) China had nearly -2 percent growth year-over-year while regions such as Europe, Latin American and African and the Middle East all show growth of more than 60 percent.
U.S. and Canada bookings, in contrast, are up only 3.3 percent from last year but claim the fourth largest share of Chinese bookings for the new year holiday (10 percent).
In Europe, Spain, and the UK are the first and second most popular destinations booked, respectively, when last year they were the fifth and fourth most popular. ForwardKeys data also show that Chinese flight bookings to the UK for November 2016 through January 2017 were up 17 percent year-over-year.
France, for example, is the fifth most popular destination for the holiday when last year it was first. While it’s difficult to pin down all factors influencing Chinese outbound travel, the UK’s Brexit vote in June made travel to the country more affordable for Chinese travelers than in recent years and terrorist attacks, floods and strikes across France in the past year help explain its slump. In November the French government reported Chinese visitors to France had decreased 23 percent year-over-year from January to October, the second steepest drop in visits after Japan.
Although bookings for one week of the year don’t represent the extended 2017 forecast for Chinese outbound travel, the new year holiday is one of the busiest and most popular travel periods in China and claims a large share of the year’s Chinese outbound trips.
With the number of Chinese outbound travelers at more than 130 million, Chinese travelers increasingly choose destinations further from their homes such as Europe and the U.S. and many — at least for the time being — don’t feel terror threats outweigh the deals they can get from weaker European currencies.
Chinese Flight Bookings Growth For Chinese New Year Holiday
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Photo credit: Chinese bookings for Europe for the Chinese New Year holiday show the most growth over last year of any region. Pictured is a video of a Chinese New Year parade in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown. Mr.TinDC / Flickr