Cultural perspective – understanding the Chinese Tourist

In the last few years the travel market in China has boomed. Overseas travel has gone from being a luxury that only the very rich can afford, to something much more accessible. An economic and sociological shift in China’s economy has allowed far more people access to overseas travel. And there is no shortage of Chinese tourists ready to capitalise on their new-found financial freedom.

In just a short period of time China has become the world leader in overseas spending. In order to help you understand the mind of a Chinese tourist, we thought we’d take a look at the culture of China in regards to travelling. Knowing what tourism means to a Chinese person will allow you to more accurately market to them, in a way that they engage with and respond to.

The introduction of ADS

In the early 1990s, overseas travel was fairly limited, used mostly for the purpose of business. However, as the Chinese people began to gain an interest in international travel, the government introduced the Approved Destination Status (ADS). This allowed the Chinese people to visit countries which the government had given this status to, for the purpose of holidays and leisure trips. Originally, ADS was given only to certain Asian countries, although the list now includes more than 145 approved destinations (Source:  It was the introduction of the ADS that opened up the possibility of overseas travel to Chinese tourists.

Economic change

Even though it is becoming more accessible, and continues to do so, travel is still viewed by Chinese consumers as a luxury. Now, economic development has brought in new wealth to the Chinese middle classes – known in China as xiaokang (‘basically well off’). With plenty of disposable income, Chinese tourists are eager to buy into the luxury lifestyle. Estimates suggest that this middle class could number 1.4billion in China by 2030 (Source:

First-time tourists

It is worth remembering that overseas travel has only been available to Chinese tourists for a short period of time. In fact, in 2012 over half of Chinese tourists going overseas were doing so for the first time (Source: . While this number is slowly decreasing, at the moment around half of your target market has not yet been abroad. This offers both challenges and advantages for Western businesses, which savvy owners will be sure to keep in mind when undertaking travel marketing in China.

Travel marketing to China tourists

For Chinese tourists, holidaying overseas is an exciting and new experience. Understanding the Chinese attitude to travel is vital in making sure that your marketing hits all the right notes. Here at Market Me China, we provide you with the perfect way of bridging the culture gap, by using our understanding and experience of the Chinese markets to help you speak to Chinese tourists in a way that they relate to and engage with. Get in touch today to take the first step on your journey towards entering the Chinese travel market.

(Image source: “St. Pauls Cathedral London” |