It’s just been reported that 75,000 mainland Chinese people visited Taiwan over Golden Weeks up 89% on last year. In contrast, visits to Hong Kong were up just 6.8% when the figure last year was an increase of 14.5% on 2012.
Current events have no doubt had an impact on these numbers but the key question is are Chinese tourists choosing Taiwan over Hong Kong? Or indeed Macao where numbers were significantly up too this holiday season. Other destinations were also up – including London. The joke in China is that other nationalities go to look but the Chinese go to take photographs! This is not just a fascination with the places they visit but the all important ‘face’ effect of being able to post ‘selfies’ from places to show their friends that they are successful and have the money to afford to travel.’
However, there is a new group emerging I sense. Friends of mine in Beijing either stayed in the city and braved the pollution this year or got away early to family. They all plan to take holidays at other times and to travel abroad. This group have the sorts of jobs that allow them the flexibility of holidays when they want, rather than to the preordained National holiday cycle.
Little known to the West there was (until a few weeks ago at least) a department in the central government in Beijing which was responsible for the arrangement and oversight of public holidays. By all accounts it was a pretty sizeable department. However, a few weeks ago there was a small announcement on the government website and in the local press that the department had been abolished! It’s another small step towards allowing both businesses and people to make their own choices about holidays and when they take them.
As I meet people around China, one of the key things that stands out is the fascination with other places and other countries. They want to see and experience cultures that they have only read about in books and have aspirations well beyond the geographical boundaries of their towns and villages. For some affected by the tumultuous changes of the 1950s it is to return to the village or town of their birth whilst for others it is the lure of Paris, Milan or New York that focuses their minds.
When David Roth and I wrote The Thoughts of Chairmen Now, one of our interviews was with the Chairman of Spring Airlines. His business vision, to open up travel opportunities for ordinary Chinese people, is an extraordinary insight on the consumer demand for mobility. We could have written a whole book on it.
Specific destinations may enjoy peaks and troughs in popularity, but whether it’s Taiwan, Hong Kong or London the Chinese want to see it all and as they prosper and the flexibilities increase many of them will.