Chinese outbound tourism will be the major driver of tourism development in Asia. US-China trade tensions have had no discernible impact on Chinese tourist flows to the region this year. Aside from Hong Kong and Macau which have attracted large numbers, the largest gainers from Chinese outbound tourism have been Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
Targeting Chinese tourists is a realistic strategy
China topped international tourism expenditure at US$268bn in 2018, higher than the USA at
US$145bn and combined US$196bn expenditure by Germany, the UK and France. Chinese tourists already have the highest share of total arrivals in some Asian countries; they are the fastest-growing arrivals in almost all countries in the region.
Current trends do not necessarily define future prospects
Tourist destinations for Chinese tourists are constantly changing for several reasons. The Game of Thrones series has attracted them to places like Northern Ireland and Croatia. Lower-cost destinations include Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. Geopolitical tensions have caused sharp fluctuations in arrivals to Korea, Taiwan and (less extreme) Japan. Current US-China trade tensions could divert Chinese tourists from the USA to other destinations.
Thailand already has a large number of Chinese tourists
Maintaining its favoured investment destination status requires developing new tourist locations and ensuring environmental sustainability of existing locations. Chinese tourists have a low share of overall arrivals in Indonesia and Malaysia, underlining scope for expansion.
Intra-Asean tourism has large scope for development
For Indonesia, India and the Philippines, rising tourism revenue would provide current account deficit relief for enhanced balance of payments stability. Other tourist sources, aside from China, should not be ignored. Intra-Asean tourism has large scope for development. Malaysia should do more to maintain high levels of Singaporean tourists. Indonesia should similarly focus on
maintaining high levels of Asean and Australian tourists.