But do the Chinese want to visit?

Tapping the Chinese markets

THE Beijing International Travel & Tourism Market, the Beijing International Travel and Tourism Market taking place from April 3 to 5, this year, has announced the participation of leading tour operators, hotel groups and tourist organisations from a number of MENA-region countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sharjah, Morocco and Syria.

Event director Karen Taylor spoke exclusively with TTN on what this means for trade with the Chinese market. Excerpts:

China’s outbound visitors are expected to be 100 million in 2020 – what numbers can the Middle East look forward to?
China is one of the most exciting and promising new travel markets and has a huge potential. With over a billion people living in China, it’s becoming the largest tourism market in the world. While there is limited data available on the Middle East, statistics for Saudi Arabia show that 12,000 visitors from China visited the country in 2005. There is a strong business connection between the Middle East and China and we will see visitor numbers rise over the next few years. Countries like Brunei, Egypt and Jordan, as well as 16 African countries have Approved Destination Status (ADS) so there is much more potential for the region.

What about Africa?
Africa is one the areas likely to benefit most from the rapid growth in outbound travel from China. In February, major travel agencies in Beijing reported that travel groups to Africa had been fully booked. In 2005, 110,000 Chinese tourists visited the region, double the number from the previous year.

How much does that translate to, in dollars?
Detailed numbers are not available. But while Chinese tourists are likely to try to save on hotel costs, they tend to spend on shopping and entertainment when travelling. Their spend of $175 per day is amongst the highest in outbound travelling expenditure, a fact worth considering when assessing the opportunities in the Chinese market.
There is a greater need for destinations to educate and inform the Chinese travel trade about their overseas offerings, and BITTM provides an ideal platform.

But are the Chinese interested? What are their concerns?
With Chinese history dating back thousands of years, visitors seek destinations with long-established cultures and ancient sites. Compared to Europe’s relatively modern history, the Middle East is an ideal match for Chinese tourists.
Security is important to the Chinese so tourists will research and seek government advice on the safety of specific locations.
Since they tend not to plan travel arrangements far in advance, tourist organizations must be prepared to operate at short notice.

What are the top markets for the Chinese?
Currently Japan, Russia, Hong Kong and Macao are the top four outbound destinations. Australia is among the top ten. However, we are seeing increased numbers to Europe and the Middle East.

So what do we do to boost outbound business to the region?
There is a need for closer political links and cultural exchanges. More countries need to become ADS-accredited and market their destinations and services. Direct air links and catering to Chinese taste buds will also help and it will be key to provide travel information in a Chinese language.

How big will BITTM be this year?
BITTM has expanded since last year and we have over 40 countries this year, with many returning from 2005. We’re expecting over 300 hosted buyers and 2,000 visitors. We’ve built on the success of last year’s show where 80 per cent of exhibitors said that visitor quality met or surpassed their expectations. With over $9 million of business done onsite by international exhibitors last year, we’re looking forward to another successful show.