BEIJING — Chinese tourists going abroad have surpassed Germans and Americans as the world’s top international travel spenders, according to a new report from the U.N. World Tourism Organization.
The organization said this week that China is now leading the world and spearheading a growth trend in international tourism from emerging countries. Chinese tourists spent $102 billion on travel abroad in 2012, placing the country’s travelers first in the world in terms of overall overseas tourism spending. The volume of international trips taken by Chinese tourists has grown exponentially in the past 12 years, from 10 million trips abroad in 2000 jumping up to 83 million trips last year. The growth in 2012 marked a 43 percent surge in overseas travel from just one year earlier, the UNWTO said.
Both increased wealth and ease of access to travel documents have contributed to the rise of China’s new international travel spree.
The news is no secret to international retailers and luxury goods companies, which have increasingly begun to cater to the tastes of Chinese shoppers at points from Africa to Asia and Europe. Shopping-centered tourism, particularly to Europe and greater Asia, has seen extraordinary growth and hefty spending, marking a bright spot on the travel retail scene, analysts have said in recent months.
International retailers have increasingly turned their attention to Chinese travel retail specifically, including planned construction of destination shopping resorts, expansion of duty-free stores across Asia and Europe and package tours to lure travelers.
“In 2005, China ranked seventh in international tourism expenditure, and has since successively overtaken Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom,” the organization said ahead of a full report to be published later this month. “With the 2012 surge, China leaped to first place, surpassing both top spender Germany and second largest spender United States (both close to $84 billion in 2012).”
Among other emerging markets for outbound tourism spending, the Russian Federation’s output increased by 32 percent, bringing it to fifth place, while Brazil moved into 12th place with travel abroad last year worth $22 million.
“Emerging economies continue to lead growth in tourism demand” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said. “The impressive growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects the entry into the tourism market of a growing middle class from these countries, which will surely continue to change the map of world tourism.”
Travel spending among the U.S. and Germany did grow last year, by 6 percent for each country, while international tourism spending declined for two countries in the top 10 — France and Italy.