China's Legions of Tourists Will Spend $155 Billion Abroad This Year

China's Legions of Tourists Will Spend $155 Billion Abroad This Year
Chinese tourists in Paris
Photograph by Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images

China is preparing for roadways clogged with cars and trains overloaded with travelers during its weeklong National Day holiday starting Oct. 1. But the real action for Chinese tourists will be happening overseas.

Over the full year, 116 million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad and spend $155 billion, up 20 percent over 2013, projects a new report by the China Tourism Academy. That compares with less than $55 billion that will be spent by tourists inside the country, a gap of more than $100 billion. “The deficit will further increase in the future,” predicts academy head Dai Bin, who was quoted in the China Daily.

China now sends more tourists abroad than any country in the world, according to China’s National Tourism Administration. Favored destinations include Australia, South Korea, and Southeast Asian countries as well as, increasingly, Europe and the U.S. Chinese tourists abroad will exceed half a billion annually within five years, says Shao Qiwei, administration chief of the English language paper.

In the first half of this year, Chinese spent $70 billion on overseas travel, up 20.7 percent from the same period a year earlier. Chinese travelers abroad spend almost three times as much per capita as foreign tourists in China, says Fan Zhiyong, an economist at Renmin University in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Along with hotel lodging fees and restaurant meals, overseas spending includes plenty of purchases of such high-priced products as Rolex watches, Prada shoes, and Chanel handbags. One-third of all Chinese travel expenditures goes to buy goods, often “luxury items—to take back home,” says McKinsey & Co. in a June report. Total spending could reach $194 billion by 2015, Morgan Stanley estimated last year.

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