How Chinese Travel Changed in 2017 According to Ctrip
New data from Ctrip is illustrating how rapidly Chinese travel is changing. The two most obvious trends illustrated in the report is the rising importance of independent travel and the growth of lower-tier cities as tourism source markets. 2017 was also the year China became the world’s largest tourism source market with 129 million outbound trips.
It’s important to note that many of the conclusions in the new report from Ctrip, done in partnership with the China Tourism Academy (CTA), are based on Ctrip’s data and is not representative of all macro trends in the Chinese travel industry. Nonetheless, given the increasingly digital nature of Chinese travel, the findings still provide valuable insights into Chinese travel as a whole.
Of particular note is how Ctrip users in 2017 were almost evenly divided between group and independent travel. 44 percent and 42 percent of Ctrip users opted for group and independent travel respectively. Free independent travelers (FITs) tend to utilize online resources to independently plan and book trips.
Thus, it is unsurprising that such a large portion of Ctrip users are independent travelers. Many group travelers still utilize brick and mortar travel agencies to arrange travel. The final 14 percent created customized group tours with local guides, utilizing Ctrip’s platform to plan at least part of the trip.
Unsurprisingly, travelers from lower-tier cities preferred group travel over independent travel. Growth in spending power and global connectivity in lower-tier Chinese cities has set the stage for a new wave of Chinese travelers. With little travel experience and often without English or other foreign language skills, group tours often prove to be a more attractive, “safer” option for these newer travelers.
The most developed regions in China are still the most important tourism source markets, but as we at Jing Travel noted last year, lower-tier cities will be the long-term drivers of growth and this new data from Ctrip largely confirms this outlook. Air connectivity in these cities is a key driver of this growth.