[photopress:hotels_swisshotel_kunshan_1.jpg,full,alignright]A pointer to how large outbound China travel is becoming is provided by a credit card. China Union Pay, China’s own credit card, set up in 2002, is one of the fastest growing credits cards brands across the world, without any marketing campaigns about its buying power.
One reason for its massive increase is that the 34 million Chinese that traveled overseas last year all acted as unofficial brand ambassadors. In Australia, National Australia Bank has teamed with China Union Pay so that Chinese tourists can make EFTPOS purchases and ATM withdrawals with their credit and debit cards. Banks in the United States, Germany and Egypt are among the others following suit.
The travel industry worldwide sees China as the single most important development in world tourism. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates there will be 60 million tourists from mainland China by 2010 and 100 million by 2015. On the other hand the WTO believes the 100 million figure will be reached later, in 2020. Either way it is an immense change in world tourism.
Last year, 15 countries and regions opened their doors to Chinese tourists. To date, Chinese travelers can visit 132 destinations. Among the newest to be approved are Oman, Morocco and Syria.
In a sense, everyone is trying to get into the act. Now Turkey is trying to attract tourists from China. Turkey only receives between 40,000 and 50,000 of the 132 million Chinese traveling the world each year. Even if two per cent of them went to Turkey each year they would represent half the tourist trade.
The United Arabs Emirate and China are close to signing the Approved Destination Status agreement. Under ADS, Chinese nationals will be able to obtain a single-entry visa to the UAE.
Once in full effect, it will significantly increase the opportunity, for example, for Dubai to push it’s attractiveness for tourism and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) markets. This, of course, could be a two way traffic.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud’s Kingdom Hotel Investments earlier this year bought the Swissotel Kunshan for $58 million. This 387 rooms is new in that it only began operating two years ago. Now Kingdom Holdings has reportedly earmarked $1 billion for investment in China’s booming hotel industry.