China tops global tourism markets with 12% jump in spend

Chinese international tourism spend grew by 12% in 2016 compared to 2015 to reach US$261bn (NZ$372bn).

The number of tourists from China also grew to $135m, up 6% last year compared to 2015, according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer.

The results saw China maintain its position as the world’s leading outbound market for tourists in 2016, a position it has held since 2012. It follows a trend of double-digit growth in Chinese tourism expenditure every year since 2004, said the Barometer.

“The growth in outbound travel from China benefited many destinations in Asia and the Pacific, most notably Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, but also long-haul destinations such as the United States and several in Europe.”

The United States was the world’s second largest source market, with spend increasing 8% in 2016 to US$122bn.

“For the third year in a row, strong outbound demand was fuelled by a robust US dollar and economy,” said the Barometer. “The number of US residents travelling to international destinations increased 8% through November 2016, from a total of 74m in 2015.”

Germany, the world’s third largest market, reported 5% growth in international tourism spending last year, rebounding from weaker figures in 2015, reaching US$81bn.

Demand from the United Kingdom, the world’s fourth largest source market, remained sound despite the significant depreciation of the British pound in 2016, said the Barometer.

UK residents’ visits abroad were up by 5m in 2016 to 70m, up 7% on 2015, with expenditure close to US$64bn.

Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy were the four European markets in the top ten with all reporting growth in outbound demand last year.

Among the largest 50 source markets, there were another nine that recorded double-digit growth in spending in 2016: Vietnam (+28%), Argentina (+26%), Egypt (+19%), Spain (+17%), India (+16%), Israel and Ukraine (both +12%), Qatar and Thailand (both +11%).

By contrast, outbound tourism from some commodity exporters continued to be depressed as a consequence of their weaker economy and currencies, said the Barometer.

Expenditure from the Russian Federation declined further in 2016 to US$24bn. International tourism spending from Brazil also decreased in 2016.

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