This past Wednesday I had the pleasure of conversing with Mr. Josef Stockinger, the director of the Austrian National Tourist Office in Beijing, about China’s outbound tourism, current trends and the changes that are taking place.

Mr. Stockinger has been working in the tourism industry for 29 years and for the Austrian tourist office for nine years.

How has Chinese outbound tourism changed since the time when you began to work in this field?

Tour groups are a very popular way to travel and are proving to be the medium for many Chinese to go abroad. In the past, opportunities were more limited to ADS (Approved Destination Status countries), business, cultural exchange and people’s friendship trips. 公费 travel (at one’s company’s expense) is still popular, but not as it was.

Current trends

It is difficult to accurately gauge travel trends, due to the nature of statistics. (For example, Honk Kong and Macao are included in what’s termed “outbound travel” for China, and “day-traders” who move across the boarder are counted as outbound tourists and when they visit towns on the Russian side of the boarder with China, they are counted as visiting Europe.) Yet there are apparent trends. Europe has a small share in the travel cut for Chinese outbound. The US and Australia (the first Western ADS country) are strong in attracting tourists, and money on Chinese tourism is not made by the local hotels or restaurants. As yet, Chinese tourists are still too frugal to allow those sectors to make a profit. Group trip pricing is incredibly competitive between agencies and accommodations are accordingly cheap. Intriguingly, the money that is made is traded between Chinese hands. Chinese agents work with Chinese organizers abroad, dealing with tourists and earning commission for shopping and with deposits. Agencies sit on large sums of cash while tourists are wandering abroad and are free to invest the funds until their clients’ return.

Mr. Stockinger identifies three types of China outbound tourism. Please revisit our blog next week to read about these types of tourism and for the continuation of this story.

Hallstatt, Austria