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ITTFA Comment on… Are you ready for the chinese revolution?

The world’s most populous nation and fastest growing economy has the power to transform the global tourism industry, with China set for over 100 million outbound visitors in less than 15 years.

That represents phenomenal growth, bearing in mind that the Chinese were effectively barred from overseas leisure travel until about 10 years ago.

The inbound market to China is also booming, with the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on the horizon and a vast programme to develop the tourism infrastructure under way. Travel exhibitions throughout the world can expect to see many more Chinese visitors coming to see what the destination country has to offer, and also a big increase in Chinese exhibitors.

An ITTFA member which is totally dedicated to the Chinese outbound market, BITTM (the Beijing International Travel and Tourism Market), was held for the second time in April. It welcomed 2,541 visitors including 448 hosted buyers from the top tour operators and travel agencies in China, who came to see 124 tourist boards, tour operators, travel agents and hotel groups from 34 countries.

Research released at BITTM indicates that outbound departures from China reached 31 million in 2005. Countries must have Approved Destination Status before they can welcome Chinese tourists, and 118 have achieved that so far with 76 already receiving tourist groups.

Destinations investing heavily in the Chinese market include Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

Taking Australia as an example, the Chinese market is expected to become the second biggest revenue earner within three years. Five hundred Chinese travel agents have trained to become specialists in selling Australia, and the country expects over one million Chinese arrivals by 2014.

Jamaica may not spring to mind as a destination for Chinese visitors, but since last year’s inaugural BITTM, it has opened an embassy in Beijing to issue visas and launched its website in Chinese.

At BITTM, China National Tourism Administration vice-director of international marketing, Yu Kaifa, said: “In the first two months of 2006, we’ve already seen departures of 5.7 million, an increase of 15.3%. With the country’s strong economic growth and improving living standards, we can see that outbound tourism has great potential.”

China’s aviation market is developing rapidly, with plans to build 48 new airports over the next five years to increase the total to nearly 200. The world’s largest terminal will open in Beijing before the Olympics, while capacity at Shanghai is being boosted to 35 million passengers per year, and at Guangzhou to 27 million. China’s airlines have about 500 new aircraft on order.

BITTM guest speaker Geoffrey Lipman, special advisor to the United Nations World Tourism Organization and past president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said the world had to take notice.

He said: “The Chinese economic dynamo will continue and the wealth this creates will fuel new travellers with curiosity to see a world which beckons to them.”

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