Chinese travelers venturing abroad spent $261 billion on foreign travel in 2016, a 12 percent increase over 2015, and that represents a new record for global outbound tourist spending.

Chinese tourists spent more than any other country’s outbound travelers last year and are already the largest outbound travel market with some 135 million Chinese traveling outside China last year, a six percent increase year-over-year, according to data released this week by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). China has been the largest outbound travel market since 2012 and its tourist spending has had double-digit growth each year since 2004.

The World Travel & Tourism Council also projects that China will be one of the 10 fastest growing markets for leisure travel spending through 2026. Chinese travelers were also the second largest market, after the U.S., for their contribution to global GDP last year (more than $1 trillion).

Japan, Korea and Thailand benefited the most from outbound Chinese tourist spending but the U.S. and Europe also saw more spending from China. Increased Chinese spending in Europe comes as more Chinese travelers reconsider the continent for trips after being deterred by terrorism attacks during the past two years.

After China, the U.S. was the second largest outbound market for tourism spending last year with $122 billion spent on foreign trips, up eight percent from 2015 ($9 billion). Germany, the UK, France and Italy were also in the top 10 for outbound tourism spending. Despite Brexit and a drop in the pound, UK travelers’ foreign trips were up by five million (seven percent) in 2016 to 70 million trips and outbound spending was about $64 billion.

UNWTO’s Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, said global outbound tourist spending results for 2016 are very encouraging. “Despite the many challenges of recent years, results of spending on travel abroad are consistent with the four percent growth to 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals reported earlier this year for 2016,” Rifai said in a statement. “People continue to have a strong appetite for travel and this benefits many countries all around the world…”

The chart below shows the world’s ten largest source markets for outbound tourism spending in 2016.

Top 10 Markets For Outbound Tourist Spending in 2016

RankCountrySpending ($U.S.)% Growth Over 2015
1China$221 billion12%
2U.S.$122 billion8%
3Germany$81 billion5%
4UK$64 billion10%
5France$41 billion7%
6Canada$29 billion0%
7Korea$27 billion8%
8Australia$27 billion8%
9Italy$25 billion1%
10Hong Kong$24 billion5%

 

Source: UNWTO

Photo Credit: Chinese tourists, like those pictured here in Singapore, spent $261 billion on foreign trips in 2016. Dan Peltier / Skift