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Chinese tourism in Europe - statistics & facts

The recent boom in Chinese tourism has created a storm across the global travel industry, as rapid urbanization and higher disposable incomes are allowing more and more Chinese tourists to explore their country and beyond. Although the vast majority of Chinese tourists in 2019 traveled domestically within China, the two and a half percent of tourists who traveled outside of the country was no insignificant amount. When looking at the share of travelers who do visit destinations outside of China, the number of outbound journeys of Chinese tourists has grown steadily in the last decade. Of the nearly 170 million outbound trips from China in 2019, nearly all of these were for private purposes rather than business trips. Chinese tourist spending on international tourism has also increased dramatically over the last ten years, reaching a peak of over 277 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.

Chinese tourism in Europe before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Outside of Asian countries, which are very popular among outbound tourists from China, one of the primary destinations for Chinese tourists traveling abroad is the European continent. In 2019, around 28 percent of tourists traveling abroad from China visited Europe. Around 6.33 million trips were made from China to Central and Eastern Europe alone in 2019, outnumbering trips to Western European destinations. Southern Europe and regions around the Mediterranean were the least visited areas by Chinese tourists that year. Within Western Europe, the United Kingdom in particular experienced a significant rise in journeys from China starting in 2015. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism from China remained high, firmly placing the country as an important inbound market for Britain, with the number of Chinese tourist trips reaching a record high of 883 thousand visits in 2019.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Chinese tourism in Europe

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, worldwide travel came to a halt as many countries closed their borders and enacted stay at home orders to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, outbound flights from the Asia Pacific region fell by nearly 60 percent between March and April of 2020. As a whole, Chinese tourism in European countries declined dramatically that year, with Chinese tourist trips to Germany alone falling from 1.55 million in 2019 to just 158 thousand in 2020. Meanwhile, travelers from China made up the highest number of tourist arrivals from Asia to Spain both before and during the pandemic, though overall numbers declined significantly. In other popular destinations, the situation was similar. Prior to the health crisis, China was the second leading market in terms of international tourist arrivals to hotels in Rome. In 2020, tourists from China fell to seventh on the list, under visitors from other European countries, Japan, and the United States.

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