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HOT TOPIC China Van den Oever says: “It kicks in almost


immediately; the week after we could see a drop in bookings and slightly later the capacity changes take into account the falling traffic. “It is simply thanks to the Chinese


government saying there’s a safety warning in travelling to South Korea. The Chinese travellers obey it and don’t go there anymore. “It shows the power China has in the


international travel space to make or break a destination overnight.” However, van den Oever adds that while Chinese tourists might have been put off visiting South Korea thanks to local events, they are not put off taking a trip. As a result, certain other neighbouring countries are feeling more positive effects. He says: “As soon as the first warning


was issued, Chinese travel agents immediately started to rebook their travels for their customers. The lesson here is they don’t stop travelling. It is a case of where they go instead as they just change their itineraries.”


Surge for Vietnam


ForwardKeys data reveals that Vietnam was the beneficiary of the biggest growth in forward bookings for August to December, with an 80% boost in Chinese international departures, followed by Malaysia, India, Canada and Australia. Meanwhile, the fact that the overall number of Chinese travellers remained essentially stable – it grew by 0.1% – shows the appetite for travel was not affected by the row with South Korea. Indonesia also proved to be a massive beneficiary from the crisis, with bookings more than doubling for China’s Golden Week from September 20 to October 8, when many Chinese families like to travel. Van den Oever says: “The Chinese government facilitates it [the shift], and there are plenty of alternatives. The rerouting of flights from South Korea will


in North America (January-July 2017)


Chinese arrivals Share of 1% 15% 84%


■ USA ■ CANADA ■ MEXICO


Chinese departures to North America in 2017, year-in-year variation (%)


USA -9.3% -13.9% CANADA MEXICO 34.1% 95.6% -20 020406080 108 ISSUE 4 SUE 5 ROUTES NEWS 2017 routesonline.com 100


50.4% 51.6%


■ Year to date (Jan-Jul 2017) ■ Forecast (Aug-Dec 2017)


Where are Chinese travellers going for the rest of 2017?


TOP INCREASING DESTINATIONS ON THE BOOK


August to December 2017


Vietnam Malaysia Indonesia Canada


Australia


+80% +53% +52% +50% +36%


Golden Week (September 20 to October 8)


Indonesia Canada Vietnam Australia Singapore


+124% +83% +82% +67% +65%


mainly be diverted to the Asian countries we see doing well.”


He adds that the Chinese authorities have


a number of tools available when it comes to driving tourist traffic to their preferred markets, with the most powerful one being the visa programme. Any agreement with a foreign country to either waive visas or allow them to be issued on arrival jumpstarts the Chinese visitor market. Van den Oever says: “It saves an awful


lot of trouble for the Chinese. They don’t have to go to Beijing with the whole family and get visas, which is an incredible amount of hassle for them. “Visa relief is a big thing for the Chinese and it shows an immediate change on the bookings once it is implemented.” He adds Mexico is a beneficiary of the


change in paperwork. Although Chinese visitor numbers to the country remain small, they account for only 1% of all Chinese arrivals to North America from January to July, 2017, they have been boosted by a change in the first quarter of the year, which meant they could be given a visa on arrival. This has led to a 34.1% increase in Chinese arrivals to the country in the first seven months of the year, while forward bookings were up by 95.6% for the rest of the year.


Canada on the up


Canada has also seen a similar change in the Chinese visa process and has also enjoyed a boost in visitor numbers as a result. The destination, which accounts for 14% of Chinese visits to North America, has experienced a 50.4% increase in Chinese visitors in the first seven months of the year, with 51.6% forward bookings for the remainder. However, van den Oever believes both destinations have also benefited from a number of factors that have driven down the popularity of the US in China. He adds: “It is a bit of a perfect storm


for the US. The Chinese are known for price sensitivity so a strong dollar doesn’t help and we believe the Trump administration


w


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