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15th December marked the beginning of a month-long global campaign run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Thai Hotels Association (THA) to encourage tourists to return to the area following the floods that ravaged parts of the country from July to December.  Most three and four star hotels that are members of the THA are expected to take part, where they will offer ‘buy one get one free’ deals on normal room rates from 15th December until 15th January 2012.  This should encourage many tourists to hurry back to the country at a time which is normally high season.

The organisation will be promoting the offer worldwide from their 26 offices, but will focus on countries close-by such as Hong Kong, Singapore and China, and hope that the campaign will boost tourism by up to 30%.  This estimation will assist in the huge losses that hotels experienced during the floods which took away more than an estimated 400,000 tourists from the country.  TAT reported that although almost all tourist destinations were not directly affected, visitors may still avoid travelling to Thailand and they have estimated a drop of around 300,000 people.

TAT organised a “mega-familiarisation” trip which brought around 500 travel agents and media representatives from all over the globe to Thailand, and will be adding further marketing activities in January and March to increase visitor figures again.  TAT are confident that by the end of March 2012, the sector will have fully recovered and hope that this marketing campaign will help them on their way.

A beach in Phuket, south Thailand


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Privacy and quality are two key factors that are attracting more and more of China’s wealthy to travel to other countries in search of healthcare services, so say experts in the medical tourism industry.

China’s economy is booming among a multitude of those that are struggling so the increasing numbers of Chinese citizens benefitting from this growth is increasing greatly, which can help drive the medical tourism industry.

Around 60,000 of the annual outbound visits from China are for healthcare services which is an exponential rise compared to five years ago when this figure was just a few thousand.  Travellers favour destinations such as Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the US, and travel for treatments such as anti-ageing therapy, cancer screening and to give birth.

Located in a luxury hospital in Singapore, Parkway Pantai Limited is a private healthcare provider which has seen the potential of China’s inbound medical tourists and is set to open next year for both Singaporeans and those from other countries.  Dr Tan See Leng, CEO, said of China: “Given the sheer population size and evident ageing trend, China’s definitely of great market value for the medical business.”

In order to make visitors as comfortable as possible, many hospitals which receive Chinese patients have Chinese-speaking staff as well as offering visa and travel assistance and in-country help centres for potential patients.  These offers help to attract customers where language can be a preventative barrier to travelling.

One of the other deterrents is cost.  Even for the most well off in China, lack of private medical healthcare can mean a short stay for a simple procedure can cost hundreds of thousands of yuan.  Although this price is becoming possible for more and more people, so it looks like the medical tourism vehicle is just starting to gain speed.


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

The impact on the travel industry – and therefore travel retail – from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami and nuclear crisis continues to worsen.

International Air Transport Association (IATA), Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani commented: “Japan is an important link in global air transport. The US$62.5 billion Japanese aviation market represents 6.5% of worldwide scheduled traffic and 10% of the industry’s revenues

Read the full article from the Moodie Report

Japan is actively promoting its tourism in China, with impressive success. This post outlines Japan’s efforts and results, as described in the Japan Times.

Promotional Efforts


In July 2010, the Japanese government lowered the income bracket requirement for granting visas to individual tourists from China. In July 2009, Japan had begun granting tourist visas to high-income individual Chinese.

Promotion of Hokkaido

A tip of the hat in thanks from Japan goes to the hugely successful 2008 Chinese movie, “If You Are the One,” set largely in picturesque Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan.

In September 2010, Hokkaido held a three-day event at the Japanese Pavilion in the Shanghai World Expo. In August 2010, the hot-springs resort area of Atami held a promotional week at the Expo.

Chinese Credit Cards

As of the end of April 2010, about 17,300 stores and facilities across Japan accept the Chinese UnionPay credit card. In addtion to businesses in major cities, more establishments in Hokkaido and Kyushu are making the move to accept the card.

Well Worth the Effort

The number of Chinese tourists to Hokkaido in 2008 was 47,400 (an increase of 75 percent over the previous year), and officials saw a similar trend in 2009. In comparison, visitors to Hokkaido from Taiwan and South Korea in 2008 were 227,600 (down 18 percent) and 139,100 (17.8 percent) respectively.

The Japan Times reported in 2010, that each Chinese tourist on average spent at least 30% more than other tourists.

With Chinese customers’ penchant for items made in Japan, purchasing products like US$75 and US$800 pantyhose and US$450 to US$900 basic beauty products, some are ringing up purchases of US$15,000.

Average purchases with the Chinese UnionPay credit card are US$45,500, three times more than Japanese average credit card purchases. A VenusFort general manager reports the average Chinese credit card purchase to be twice the typical amount a Japanese customer spends.

Looking Ahead

Future proposals for Japan to cater to Chinese visitors include installing Chinese language signs on streets and public transportation and hiring interpreters. Japanese businesses are seeking to bridge the culture gap, including table manners, food preferences, and how to use hot springs.


It used to be the Russians who splurged on tax-free shopping for authentic and luxury brands while traveling to European countries. Since last summer, not only have Chinese tourists emerged as the top tax-free shoppers in Europe, their average spending for each transaction doubled that of the Russians.

On average, outbound travelers from the Chinese mainland spent 744 euros on tax-free shopping transactions last year, doubling the Russian’s 368 euros. Tourists from the United States spent 554 euros and the Japanese 521 euros, according to Global Blue.

For the complete story, see


China’s GQ magazine (a luxury lifestyle magazine, launched in China in 2009) is running a story about Chinese travel trends, entitled “The Chinese’ Travel Revolution.” This article is remarkable because it shows a strong new preference among Chinese travelers to be more adventurous and (for the ones who can afford it) to experience something outstanding and not just group tourism.

It is also interesting that these stories are not published in travel magazines anymore but in lifestyle magazines. Travel is definitely becoming more and more of a hot topic in China. It has been that way in the West already for a long time but because of restrictions the Chinese have only just picked up on it. And now they are hungry for it.

Indeed, this article features anything but the ordinary. Highlights include horseback riding on Hoysgol Lake, a magic lake that freezes overnight, and whose sound of cracking ice guarantees good luck for the entire year to come; MiGE-29 fighter airplane stunts experienced from inside the craft; watching Peru’s 900 types of wild birds or Sichuan’s two or three; hunting and fishing with the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest or engaging in witchcraft with the remote tribes of Togo, Benin, and Burka Faso; experiencing the world’s purest sunshine and seawater in Greenland or the purest air on the Drangmehhu River (with the most rapid water, incidentally) in Bhutan; hiking up to Machu Picchu or pedalling all over Italy on a pasta tour. Then, after the Chinese traveler finishes fishing from a helicopter over waterfalls not far from the Nile, and coming nose to nose with polar bears and foxes in the North Pole, he or she can save some lives on the Global Charter Flight Tour.

It’s a fact: Chinese perception towards traveling is changing radically. Travel is no longer for the weak of heart, and the smart players in the tourism industry are taking notice.

China outbound tweeds

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Michael Kaltenhauser

Founder and director of Astronaut, a marketing agency based in Beijing which is specialized on promoting destinations to Chinese outbound tourists

Laura Hine

Online Communications Assistant at Astronaut