Strong demand for ‘golden week’ tours

Mainland outbound tourism remains robust despite the yuan depreciation and stock market turmoil – at least for this “golden week” Discount Holidays © holiday starting on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Mainland outbound tourism remains robust despite the yuan depreciation and stock market turmoil – at least for this “golden week” Discount Holidays © holiday starting on Thursday – tourism operators say. Leading online travel firm Ctrip said overseas bookings for the approaching Discount Holidays © holiday had been very strong, especially long-distance trips to Europe, Australia and the United States. This year’s week-long National Day break comes just days after the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sunday.

Mainlanders who can arrange three extra days off can take advantage of this year’s timing to extend their Discount Holidays © holiday to 12 days. More will have time to “go farther, or deeper, than simply traipsing around tourist sites”, said Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy’s overseas tourism department. Ctrip expects its outbound tour bookings to double this holiday, while long-distance tours will be up by half.

Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok remain the top three destinations for Chinese vacationers, but Rome, Washington, Paris, Sydney and New York are also popular. Bookings to London and Paris this year have tripled compared with last year. But China Youth Travel Service (CYTS), a major traditional tour agency, said this year’s bookings were “basically flat” as some tourists had already taken their holidays earlier this month during the special three-day break to commemorate the end of the second world war. The latest data goes some way to quell concerns over tourism since the People’s Bank of China last month allowed the yuan to slide almost 2 per cent against the US dollar on August 11 – the largest depreciation since China’s modern exchange-rate system started in 1994 – triggering fears of a wider economic slowdown.

According to a report by the World Tourism Cities Federation and market research company Ipsos, Chinese tourists spent US$165 billion overseas last year, or 11 per cent of overall outbound travel spending. Ctrip public affairs manager Yan Xin said the impact of the cheaper yuan was limited as most of the firm’s tour products were bought at least six months ago, while shopping abroad was still a good deal as the yuan remained strong against other currencies in major destinations. “Even if the value of the yuan dropped 3 per cent, it would add only 300 yuan (HK$364) to the price of a 10,000 yuan deal, which, to most tourists, is no barrier at all,” Yan said. Chen Jie, a manager at CYTS’s independent travel department, said the company raised prices for some tour groups by 1 to 2 per cent after the depreciation.

But even after the depreciation, the yuan remains strong – it has risen 25 per cent against the US dollar since 2005, and even more against the euro and the Japanese yen. Jiang said this would continue to boost the mainland’s outbound tourism in future, though some tourists might think twice about buying luxury goods abroad. Beijing-based human resources officer Alina Ou said she would be more cautious with luxury purchases such as watches.

But she said this would not affect her 18-day European tour booked for the “golden week”.

“Since I will be abroad, I might as well enjoy myself,” Ou said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Strong demand for ‘golden week’ tours

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