Chinese travelers just love Japan
KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei staff writer
DALIAN, China -- A survey released this week confirms that Japan continues to be the most popular destination among Chinese overseas travelers, and that the Chinese people's crush on Japan has intensified, despite the chilly relationship between the two countries' political leaders.
When vacation-deal website Travelzoo Asia Pacific asked 4,322 of its members in Japan, mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia where they wanted to travel in 2015, "Japan" was the top answer in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Of the 912 respondents in mainland China, 40% said they want to visit Japan, a 10-point leap from last year's survey, when Japan topped the list for the first time. In 2013, Japan was in 10th place.
The stronger yuan and the weaker yen has made Japan a much more affordable destination. But Chinese travelers are not necessarily flying to Japan in pursuit of cheaper Louis Vuitton bags. When Travelzoo asked its Chinese users what they were looking for in a trip, 15% answered cultural experiences, 13% said they want to rent a car and explore, and another 13% said gastronomy.
Shopping was near the bottom of the list, at 1.4%. Japan seems to cater to the Chinese desire to explore different cultures and experience local lifestyles.
"The survey shows that the Chinese travel appetite is changing dramatically," said Vivian Hong, president of Travelzoo's China branch. "It also underscores the danger of stereotyping Chinese preferences, especially with their increasing preference for unique experiences. It remains to be seen whether their destinations are prepared to appease their dynamic tastes and demands."
The average annual household income of Travelzoo's Chinese members is 320,000 yuan ($51,500).
For them, the U.S. was second on the travel destination list, followed by New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan.
The survey also found that its Chinese members plan to take an average of 6.4 domestic and overseas trips this year and intend to spend $8,558 while doing so. Travelzoo's Japanese users are planning an average of 5.2 vacations and think they'll drop $4,604 while on holiday.
Statistics clearly show that to accommodate the Chinese, the world's largest smartphone users, hotels and travel agencies in Japan will have to be digital. Of the Chinese respondents, 78% said they had made a travel-related purchase via a mobile device during the past 12 months. That is much higher than the 55% average for Asia as a whole.
Also, 77% of the Chinese survey-takers use their devices to find out about restaurants at their destinations. A whopping 97% of them said they stay connected with friends, relatives and colleagues during their vacation, sending pictures and updates about their trips.
Free high-speed Wi-Fi, therefore, might be much more important to the Chinese customer than the average innkeeper in a Japanese onsen hot-spring resort town might think.