China’s Outbound Tourism: Evolvement and Academic Values-Keynote Speech at the 5th Biennial Conference of International Tourism Studies Association_China Tourism Academy

China’s Outbound Tourism: Evolvement and Academic Values-Keynote Speech at the 5th Biennial Conference of International Tourism Studies Association

2014-11-26 16:06:41       Size:[L  M  S]

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen:

About twenty years ago, when I studied as a Master’s student of tourism management, the dream job of many tourism students was tour guide, and making money and foreign currencies from foreigners. At that time, a US dollar was equivalent to 8.8 Chinese Yuan, and even more on the black market. Ten years ago, along with the consistent growth in domestic tourist market demands, many people’s dreams were hotel managers who enjoy presentable work environment and decent salary, and enviable overseas training opportunities. When outbound travel was still once in a blue moon to most people, occasionally you were woken up in the middle of a night by a phone call from an acquaintance or relative, and told “good morning, oh, my apology, I forgot that there was a time-difference”. Through years, whereabouts of his travel was already washed off from my memory. However, the showing off traveling overseas really made you green with envy, and made me want to walk on the Fifth Ave in New York City even in my dreams.

In fact, until the promulgation of Interim Administrative Procedures for Chinese Citizens Self-Supported Outbound Travel, has China’s outbound market started to development on the sense of marketization. Although the initiation was relative late, the development was fast. Through a decade of development, China has become one of the most vibrant and important tourism source countries in Asia-Pacific, and global markets. In 2009, China’s international tourism service produced a trade deficit for the first time in history, which marked the beginning of a new historical era of China tourism industry. In 2013, China’s outbound tourism had significantly shaped the structure patterns of the Asia-Pacific and even global tourism markets, thanks to its sheer number of 98.19 million departures and 128.6 billion USD spending. “Chinese outbound tourists” has turned into a buzzword for global tourism, international media, and world leaders. In 2012 and 2013, China and Russia organized the first bilateral “Sino-Russian Tourism Year”. Next year, China and South Korea will also organize themed tourism year. In this month’s just concluded APEC Summit in Beijing, President Xi Jinping declared that “there will be over 500 million Chinese outbound tourists in the next five years”. US President Barack Obama announced 10-year visa for Chinese tourists. The tourism industry also initiated nearly ten programs specially tailored for Chinese tourists, for instance “Welcome Chinese” and “Chinese Friendly”. Meanwhile, tourism academia also allocated growing amount of resources to systematically study the Chinese phenomena, and extended the fields to market sizes, consumption structures, expenditure critics, development trends, policy evolvement, and stakeholders’ reciprocal relations.

Research shows that through decades of continuing fast development, China has become the world’s largest tourist sourcing market and overseas tourism spending country. China is generating increasingly widespread influence on the tourism market, the economy and the society worldwide. In 1998, China had a minute annual outbound travel of 8.42 million, but now it expects 114 million tourist departures at the end of this year, with a year-on-year growth rate of 17%, staying the top as the world’s fastest growing outbound markets. Outbound tourism expenditure increased from 920 million USD in 1998 to 128 billion USD in 2013, and even a historical number this year. To explain this phenomenon, I suggest that factors from various dimensions should be taken into consideration, from social transformation and reform from the closed to the open, to increased domestic income and appreciation of Chinese currency, from increased ADS treaties and loosened visa restrictions, to improved shopping experiences and brand identification. Shopping has always been a major component in Chinese travelers tourism consumption. It once accounted over 65% of the total expenditures at some destinations, so that international tourism industry deemed Chinese tourists as “walking wallet”. In general Chinese tourists are welcomed globally, while negative criticisms against them are also no stranger. In fact, the fast development of outbound tourism yielded significant influences not only on the destination’s economy, but also remarkably on its society, natural environment, and public opinions. In response, the Chinese government regulates behaviors through the Tourism Law and Outbound Tourism Civilization Conventions, and also guides appropriate behaviors through publicity. When President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Southeast Asia countries, he chatted with Chinese tourists that “don’t litter water bottles, don’t ruin the coral reef, eat less instant noodles and try more local seafood”. In this September, I personally was invited by the China National Radio to do a public service on timekeeping for 30 days, calling on people that “patriotism is to show civilization in your overseas travel, through every word and action, no talking loudly in public, queue by the order, and respect local customs.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Looking to the next five years, China's outbound tourism market will continues to grow in total amount, but also there will be some interesting new trends particularly noteworthy. Although bearing an increasing tourism trade deficit, so far, there are no indications that the Chinese government will intensify efforts to restrict the outbound markets. On the contrary, we are willing to see that every country, every region can jump on the bandwagon of the booming Chinese outbound tourism. It is expected that by 2020, China will achieve its Chinese-Dream of a well-off society, and the outbound market will exceed 200 million departure per annum. With the increase in market base number and maturing consuming psychology, the growth rate of outbound market scale and consumption will certainly decline. Surveys show that outbound tourist sourcing areas are spreading from tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other developed coastal areas to tier 2, tier 3 cities and Midwestern China. Residents in those regions, especially the middle class, will become the major forces of the outbound tourism in the near future. Neighboring countries and regions will remain as the main destinations for Chinese outbound tourists, while long-haul destinations in North America, Oceania, and Europe will see increased market share. It is also noteworthy that with the wide application of info technology, rich experiences in outbound travel, and the independent 80ers and 90ers becoming the mainstream of the market, China’s outbound tourism will show more salient characteristics of individualization and free independent travels (FIT). Tourists’ preferences are also changing, from sweeping multi-cities in a day, and tuhao (the uncouth rich) shopping tours, to culture experience, leisure and vacations, rehab escapes, even the explorers who stay in one city for ten days to half a month to maximally experience a high-quality life at the destination. The reason why we are happy to see that the public spend billions to see the world is that we recognize tourism as a long-existing lifestyle, and also an organic component of civil rights and Chinese dream. Tourism is “an important measure to improve the citizens’ living standard”, and “people’s pursue of a better life is the goal we strive for”. Accordingly, we also inquire if we can receive better-quality service while we have sent so many people, spent so much money, and tourists’ behaviors are turning more civilized. Commissioned by China National Tourism Administration, China Tourism Academy has conducted seven quarters of Chinese outbound tourists’ satisfaction research, which showed that destinations like Canada France, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain received high evaluation. However, tourists remain most complaints on lack of Chinese elements in destinations services, including Chinese language reception, Chinese food, tour guides, TV programs, newspapers, websites without Chinese language selection, and hospitality at certain destinations. The recent data showed that due to global issues like aviation safety and terrorism attach, the imperfect reception facilities at destinations, Chinese tourists’ satisfaction have been declining towards the most visited destinations, including Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Satisfied or not, it is a part of the process undertaken during Chinese citizens fulfilling their travel dreams. An old Chinese saying has it that “picky ones are those who buy”. Tourists’ selectiveness reflects expectations of the destination countries, and hope to promote its tourism hospitality environment and service quality. I hope the international community will produce more in-depth studies on the consumer demand in the Chinese market, offer more tolerance and understanding of Chinese tourists’ living habits and travel behaviors, and to provide more humane care and higher quality service for Chinese tourists.

When “Chinese tourists” are welcome globally, the world also shall be in preparation to meet the “Chinese service standard”. With the strong growth of the Chinese economy and the increasing competitiveness of Chinese enterprises, especially the support from the booming Chinese outbound tourism, more Chinese tourist enterprise will go global, and offer “Chinese services” on a global scale. To name a few, conglomerates including Hong Kong China Travel Service Group, China International Travel Services, Beijing Tourism Group, Jinjiang Group, Lingnan group, Hainan Airlines, Wanda Culture and Tourism Group, travel service providers including China Youth Travel Services, Spring Travel, Guangdong Travel services, Ctrip, Qunar, hoteliers like Kaiyuan, Jinlin, Plateno, China Huazhu, Pod Inns, and theme park and attraction investors including Haichang, Changlong and Wuzhen. All these Chinese enterprises and much more growing local businesses will follow the business development rules to plot global strategies after achieving the stable competitive advantages on the domestics markets. We have already seen many Chinese business have purchased hotels, wineries, restaurant chains, shopping centers in Europe,  ASEAN, the US, and Japan, and provide the world “Chinese services standard” through exporting professional managers, professional technicians, and labor dispatch. However, for these normal international business practices, some countries and regions, under the guise of “national security reviews”, “Anti-monopoly investigation”, and “labor welfare investigation”, discriminate Chinese investors and brands on their ownership and country of origin, and even artificially hinder the normal development of the company's business. To my view, it is the best to “leave the politics to politics, let the business be business”. If Chinese tourists’ going global is a “new normal” to the world tourist market, then globalization of Chinese enterprise, Chinese culture, and Chinese services will be another new normal. We wish the world acknowledge and support Chinese tourism services’ globalization, just like the courtesy given to Chinese tourists.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the world tourism enters into the China Era, it also proposes a new object of study, a new academic perspective, and will also generate brand new academic thinking. In 1841, when Thomas Cook’s abstinence trip marked the beginning of modern tourism, it also initiated the self-constructing process of tourism as an individual science. Since then, one generation after another, the tourist academia has construed the basic concepts of tourism, tourist, destination, and tourism industry; debated on the topics of motivation, requirement, impact, planning, market, sustainability, and policies; referenced the research methodology in neo-anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, management science and geography: created the platforms of academic journals, professional teaching organizations, and international academic associations, and gradually formed the communities of tourism academia. The academia have built dynamics with government authorities, NGOs, business institutes, and community residents on a worldwide scale, and formed an academic discourse system that is dominated by developed western countries. Today, the fast growing Chinese outbound tourism has become a brand new object for international tourism research communities to observe, investigate and analysis. To explain the “China phenomena”, one must persist in traditional research paradigms, but also bring the Oriental perspectives into the study, thus to form new academic thinking and contemporary tourism development theories. The value orientation of Chinese academic traditions emphasizes on “studying the objects, gaining the knowledge, accumulating the sincerity, rectifying the mind, refining the self-perfection, harmonizing at homes, governing the country, and eventually achieving world peace”, in other words, making the study serve the practice purpose. While on the patterns of presentation, the academic traditions underline “argumentation, textual criticism, and rhetoric”. Simply put, the research is inadequate to just be logically self-consistent, or receive peer recognition, but has to have directive function for social practices, and understandable to audience, and adorn with literary grace. With that said, to reach the prosperity and development, contemporary tourism academic research must advance with the times, and promptly respond to the realities of industrial practice. Researchers cannot be satisfied in the traditional academic career path from completing degrees, publishing articles, applying grants, to achieving a tenured position. I, with my colleagues, have conducted a ten-year longitudinal study on the outbound market. Recently, we implemented the “China outbound tourist satisfaction survey” projects. For all these research works, we certainly value the scholarship of essays, books, and educational materials that are produced, but more importantly, we rather value their applied functions, including research reports, policy suggestions, professional presentations, media interviews and international communication and collaborations, that stem from the projects. Aside from consulting from the government and serving the industry development and planning, we are also exploring contemporary tourism development theories from both the global and Chinese perspectives, and would like to share with the international academia.

As the leader of a national tourism think-tank, I look forward to carrying out extensive communications and cooperation with international counterparts, governments and business sectors, and dedicating all my talent and endeavors for the prosperity and development of Asia and the world tourism, and for the humankind traveling on this planet with higher freedom and more dignity.
Thank you!

(Dai Bin, Perth Australia, November 26, 2014)

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