In 2016, the number of international departures from China was estimated to be 135 million. After those numbers came out, it became pretty clear that the Chinese travel market wasn’t to be taken lightly. In fact, it was fairly obvious that the Chinese would be changing the industry.

The average travel expenditure in China is twice that of the global average. In 2016, Chinese travelers spent around $261 billion. By 2020, this number is expected to cross $400 billion. The Chinese are arriving – literally and metaphorically.

Multiple factors at play

Only 6% of Chinese citizens currently hold a passport. But, that’s not a small number when you consider that China is over a billion strong. The country is going through many positive changes – middle-class income is on the rise, the restrictions on travel aren’t as stringent, and people are more interested in traveling than ever.

Though package trips still remain the preferred choice, Chinese tourists are branching out and developing a taste for “sophistication” and “excitement.” There has been some growth in the area of personalized travel experiences as well.

Some of the most popular destinations include Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan. Also, safety seems to be a huge concern of the Chinese traveler. This is exactly why very few of them choose to travel to Europe and Korea. The former has been in the news for terrorist attacks, while the latter is plagued by political instability.

As for countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the Philippines, the preference remains moderate. But, there has been some growth since 2014. Europe and North America have received some flak from the Chinese with regard to service. The biggest complaint being that these nations treat Chinese tourists as a non-diverse group.

What does this have to do with the translation industry?

As more Chinese people begin to travel, the international travel industry will soon have to come up with ideas to make their them feel welcome and at home. For instance, some destinations have already made it easier for Chinese tourists to qualify for a visa. Some have even gone so far as to waive the need for a visa.

Countries with a poor economy, such as Brazil and Zimbabwe, are heavily investing in their tourism industry, with a focus on bringing in more Chinese tourists. This is because Chinese tourists contribute to the local economy by being big spenders.

Thailand, which is a popular destination among the Chinese, is working to welcome more Chinese tourists by eliminating certain hindrances. The country did away with the “0-dollar” package tours, which were basically scams. Even operators with a limited repertoire of services have been asked to pack their bags.

Thailand has worked with the Chinese embassy to develop signboards and instruction boards just to make things easier for Chinese tourists. Locals are also being encouraged to make visitors feel more welcome.

With travel tastes becoming more oriented towards experiences, shopping isn’t driving the tourism sector like it used to. Plus, there is also the fact that Chinese tourists have to undergo stringent customs checks when they get back. This, followed by the depreciation in the Yuan, is forcing travelers to spend less.

Plus, cross-border e-commerce has made foreign goods far more accessible, which is also eliminating shopping-driven international travel. However, luxury, cosmetics, and gaming are some of the sectors still benefiting from Chinese travelers.

So, it’s fairly clear that the Chinese have a great impact on certain domestic markets. Even more interestingly, they tend to travel when the rest of the world isn’t on holiday, which is great for business.

Businesses need to make a note of this and start prepping their businesses to cater to the Chinese traveler/customers. Translation is just the first step. There’s a lot more to be done. Countries like Thailand are getting it right and it’s time you did too