The number of Chinese visitors to Ireland is set to more than double in the next five years as a new study shows that China has overtaken Germany and the US as the world’s biggest spenders on overseas travel.
The second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor, released yesterday by Hotels.com, reveals significant insights into the changing behaviours of Chinese travellers.
Chinese travellers spent the equivalent of $102bn (€76.3bn) on international travel in 2012, an increase of over 40% on 2011. The number of outbound trips by Chinese, which stands at 8m a year, is expected to grow to 100m by 2015.
Tourism Ireland yesterday welcomed the study, saying that it is currently expanding operations in China.
“While the British remain our biggest customers, followed by the Americans, Germans and French, China is a hugely important emerging travel market,” said Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland.
“We currently have 17,000 Chinese visitors to Ireland every year. We are hoping to build that to about 50,000 visitors over the next five years.
“We had a China market seminar recently in Dublin and we have adopted a working plan for 2013 and 2014.”
Tourism Ireland has just appointed a new company, Travel Link Marketing, to represent them in China. They have also have enhanced their digital marketing presence in China.
The Tourism Ireland plans received a major boost recently when China’s number one travel blogger visited Ireland to help showcase the country to tens of millions of tourists in Asia.
Fan Yibo, aka Mr Colorful Map, spent a week touring the country as a guest of Tourism Ireland. Yibo is hugely influential in China. His blog has received in excess of 77m hits to date and he has more than 360,000 fans on Sina Weibo — one of the most popular social networking sites in China.
However, Mr Gibbons cited two areas that may stall ambitious plans to grow the China market: the absence of a direct air link and the fact that Chinese visitors to the island require two visas, one for the Republic and a UK one for Northern Ireland. Tourism Ireland wants a combined UK and Ireland visa available to Chinese visitors.
“We are exploring options with the Dublin Airport Authority for a direct air link,” said Mr Gibbons.
“We are also working with the Department of Justice on a visa waiver scheme. The Irish and British governments are currently looking at the options for a combined visa and that is very encouraging.”
According to the Hotels.com report the majority of overseas Chinese travel (96%) has been for leisure purposes, while just over half (52%) have also visited other countries for business or education.
Three quarters (75%) of Chinese travellers say hoteliers need to improve the provision of translated items, such as welcome literature, websites, TV programmes and newspapers, while almost half (42%) say that they would like more Mandarin speaking staff in hotels.
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