Insights into the Chinese Travel Market: the Executive Summary

Like many companies we are in awe of the Chinese market. China’s tourism industry is booming. The number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad has steadily increased from 44 million in 2008 to 150 million in 2018. A staggering increase of 340% in 10 years (1). For businesses looking to tap into this flourishing market, we have delved into some numbers, the behaviors, attitudes and preferences of these customers.

Explaining the growth in the Chinese tourism market

The main drivers for China’s growing tourism market are a higher number of visa-free destinations, increased annual salaries, the ability to access travel information online and more accessible air travel (2, 3, 4, 5).

Exploring customer characteristics

Over 90% of outbound travelers in China live in tier 1 and tier 2 cities where annual incomes are highest. Travelers are well educated with over 80% having a Bachelor’s degree or higher and Europe is their preferred travel destination. The average age is 35 and they are typically married with children. This customer type accounts for 56% of outbound travel (6). 

What are the customer aspirations?

With the vast majority of travelers living in China’s huge metropolitan areas, it is unsurprising that on their holidays, their main purpose is to ‘recharge’ (70%) and escape urban environments (65% of respondents prefer natural scenery). The majority (61%) stated that they prefer local experiences (5).  

Tasting local food is becoming increasingly important for younger travelers 63% prefer to eat local food on trips. In the past tourists from China would choose western buffets or to eat Chinese food when abroad (6). 

Travelling independenty vs package trips

According to Ctrip (Chinese travel services provider) in 2019, 50% of outbound tourists who booked on their platform chose independent travel. They also observed a noticeable increase in the number of travelers choosing customized tours and experiences (7). 

Many Chinese travelers traditionally would opt for package holidays and this is still generally the case for older generations. Notably as the age of the traveler decreases the more likely they are to choose independent travel. According to the Mckinsey report 83% of travelers in the age group 20-24 prefer (semi) self-guided tours (5).

It is also worth noting that travelers from more rural areas tend to perfect packaged trips. This may be due to a number of reasons including increased security and comfort when traveling with a group, language concerns and a lack of experience traveling abroad. 

A new generation of travelers 

There is a new generation of younger travelers with tighter purse strings who are traveling more and more. This group earn less than their older counterparts and so prefer short-term and short-distance trips to visit nearby countries within Asia such as Japan and Korea. The trend for customized tours in smaller groups is becoming increasingly popular amongst these younger travelers (5, 6). This is a potentially exciting target consumer base for Withlocals who specialize in providing authentic and private tours and experiences. 

Travel to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan 

It’s worth noting that around half of the number of travelers taking trips abroad in 2018 (approximately 70 million) are to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Half of all outbound tourists from China travel to the regions of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

With the introduction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge the numbers traveling to Macau are at a record high. Popular activities in Macau include gambling and shopping for cosmetics. Those traveling to Hong Kong are mostly families drawn by theme parks like DisneyLand and Ocean World. Taiwan’s local food and night markets are a major draw for Chinese tourists along with its cultural attractions (1).


It is easier than ever for Chinese tourists to travel overseas and they are taking advantage of this in vast numbers. This market could be a lucrative venture for many companies in the travel and tourism sector and well worth tapping into. What must not be forgotten is that there is a new generation of travelers from China who are travelling in a different way. With a need for more flexibility, smaller groups and local experiences it is worth exploring the tastes of this consumer group now as their spending power is only set to rise. 


If you want to read up more, please check out these reports and articles we have used as sources.

If you're interested to read our full report, please send us a quick mail.

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About Withlocals

Withlocals is a Dutch scale-up marketplace that connects tens of thousands of travelers each month. Our verified and well-trained local hosts offer personalized private tours and activities in more than 50 cities across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Our vision is to end mass tourism and replace it with personalized traveling at scale. We break down the barriers that separate locals and travelers. We let locals earn their fair share with their passions and the love for their cities. While at the same time creating authentic travel experiences for travelers. This is our way to improve the quality of living in cities and brighten up the world.

How it all started
The idea of the company originated when founder Willem Maas was traveling in India. After some disappointing experiences, Willem met an amazing guide who showed him the true colours and wonders of India. When he found out Willem was working in online marketing, he asked if he could set up a website which would send guests directly to him, so he and his family would be the one profiting. That’s exactly what Willem did in 2013 when he founded Withlocals.