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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.

 

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A study comparing the Chinese and U.S. outbound markets has recently been completed by two professors at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Rich Harrill and Dr. Xiang “Robert” Li have documented perceptions Chinese have of America and compared them with American perceptions of China.

Read about  their findings at http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/mar/28/study-help-determine-how-best-market-chinese/.

San Francisco, California

interior entrance to Bloomingdale's in the Dubai Mall

The glitsy Bloomingdale's in the Dubai Mall

In response to the surge in Chinese visitors in countries of the United Arab Emirates, businesses are pulling out all the stops to attract more visitors and convince them to boost their spending, with special promotions that run for a couple of weeks into the Lunar New Year, even to the end of the month.

Many hotels are offering special meals and a la carte menus, while others have rolled out golf, spa and overnight packages for guests who visit over the next couple of weeks.

The retailer Bloomingdale’s says it plans to double its number of Chinese-speaking staff to cater for a growing number of customers.

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers throughout the Emirates are reporting a surge in Chinese visitors ringing in the Year of the Rabbit.

About 2,500 Chinese visitors have reportedly come to the UAE through Hunter International Tourism, one of China’s largest travel agencies, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which began yesterday, or attend conferences. The numbers are expected to match, if not exceed, last year’s figure.

“China is a massive market,” says Mr Goddard, the managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting in Dubai, and the Chinese New Year period is “going to be a huge opportunity for getting Chinese nationals to the Middle East. Anything that promotes the Chinese market would be good for the long term.”

Global spending by tourists from China was up 17 per cent in 2009 from 2008 to US$43.7 billion (Dh160.5bn), according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

Overall, the UAE has seen a sharp increase in visitors from China since the autumn of 2009, when the country gained “approved destination” status from the Chinese government to have tourist groups come through the region.

source: http://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-tourism/chinese-new-year-boosts-uae-tourism-industry

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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