Hong Kong topped the list of outbound travel destinations for tourists from mainland China during the short new year break, while South Korea continued to miss out as the travel ban remains amid the missile row with China since last March.
According to a report from Ctrip – China’s largest online booking website – of the 300 million registered users, almost half who chose to book a package tour or an independent travel product on the website, opted to travel overseas.
They travelled to 66 foreign countries and regions, 10 more compared to the same period a year earlier.
Chinese tourists will next head overseas in large numbers during the weeklong national holiday for the Lunar New Year in February.
Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tokyo were the top three cities favoured by Chinese tourists, while Japan, Thailand and the US topped the list of countries, according to the Ctrip report.
No other details were available from Ctrip.
Hong Kong, although a traditional travel destination for mainland Chinese visitors because of its proximity and cheaper goods because of a lower tax rate, had seen declines in mainland visitor numbers in 2015 and 2016 because of rising tension between locals and mainlanders and a weaker yuan among other reasons.
But the momentum began to pick up in 2017, with November seeing the most increase in tourist arrivals in seven months. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, 3.7 million mainland tourists arrived in November, an 8.6 per cent increase from the same period in 2016.
Analysts say the increase in tourists arrivals was mainly because of the efforts of the Hong Kong government in promoting tourism and a recovery in consumer sentiment on the mainland that was previously dented by President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign.
Meanwhile, with China’s ban on tour groups to South Korea still in place for almost a year now, there was not even “a single group” to South Korea during the new year holidays, according to Ctrip. As such, South Korea fell from the top 10 destinations for Chinese travellers during the period.
In March, Beijing ordered travel agencies in China to suspend group tours to South Korea in response to Seoul’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Area Altitude Defence system – a network of radars and interceptors designed to knock out incoming ballistic missiles. Seoul said the system was to ward of rising threats from Pyongyang but Beijing considered it as a threat to its own security.
More than 8 million Chinese visited South Korea in 2016 but the total for 2017 is expected to be about half that figure. Before the ban, Chinese tourists accounted for about half the revenue of South Korean hotel chains, cosmetics companies, and duty-free shops. Bank of Korea forecast the ban would result in about US$4.5 billion in lost revenue for the tourism industry for 2017.