The Situation Regarding Foreign Travel by the Chinese


As can be seen from the chart, foreign travel by Chinese people began in the 1980s with visits to relatives in Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand. Visits to relatives spread to Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines in the 1990s; however, approval for these was only granted on the condition that the travelers joined tours planned by government-designated travel agencies. There were many such restrictions on things such as the destination and purpose of the trip and various conditions in the early stages of foreign travel by Chinese people, but these restraints have been eased since the late 1990s and, as can be seen from the table, the number of the countries and regions that receive Chinese travelers has increased every year. Nevertheless, due in part to geographical conditions, the predominant destinations for Chinese travelers are countries or regions in Southeast Asia. According to statistics for 2002, of the 16.6 million Chinese who traveled abroad that year, about 40% were destined for countries or regions in Southeast Asia.

Agreements Concluded with the Chinese Government Regarding the Acceptance of Chinese Travelers,

by Year and Country or Region (as of 2003)

Year Countries or regions that accept Chinese travelers
1983-84 Hong Kong, Macau
1988 Thailand
1990-92 Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines
1998 ROK
1999 Australia, New Zealand
2000 Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei
2002 Indonesia, Malta, Turkey, Egypt, Nepal
2003 Germany, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Maldives, Hungary, Pakistan, Cuba, Croatia

However, the situation has changed considerably in recent years. Travel fairs and tourism-related events of various sizes now take place throughout China; until now, there were mainly aimed at attracting foreigners to China, but fairs and events aimed at attracting Chinese visitors to foreign countries have recently emerged. In particular, since last year, countries with advanced economies, including Japan, have set up booths in order introduce Chinese people to their tourist attractions and sightseeing areas. According to information from China, EU countries have agreed with the Chinese government that the full-scale acceptance of Chinese tourists will begin on 1st May. It is therefore expected that travel to Europe will become popular among the Chinese in the coming years. The only impediment to this is the fact that traveling to Europe imposes a greater burden in terms of distance, time and cost, compared with traveling to the countries of Southeast Asia. However, the Chinese have a strong yearning to travel to Europe, and more people than ever can afford both the time and the money to visit. Consequently, there may be a boom in travel to Europe if the necessary environment is put in place. Per capita GNP in China reached $1,000 in 2003 and, if the social development objectives set by the Chinese government are achieved, it is expected to rise to $3,300 in 2020. If this goal is realized, the WTOfs forecast that the number of Chinese traveling abroad will be 100 million by 2020 will not merely be a pipe dream. In addition, along with the development of Chinese economy, if an extra ten days of paid leave per year (an issue currently under consideration) is in fact added to the current seven-day holiday periods of Chinese New Year, May Day and Chinafs National Day, China will also approach the status of a society of leisure and the travel bug that has become prevalent among the people of China will escalate further.

As can be seen from the table, although the Japanese and Chinese governments reached an agreement in 2000 with regard to accepting Chinese travelers, it unfortunately failed to bring about a Japanese travel boom in China. In the future, in order to ensure that the Chinese do not give travel to Japan a wide berth, I would like both Japan and China to take measures to remedy this situation.

[Translated by ERINA]