A heartwarming trend this Chinese New Year (CNY) is a rise in family trips among mainland Chinese travellers, which augurs well for the industry.
According to ForwardKeys, the fastest-growing segment this CNY is family travel of up to four people, which has increased 18 per cent and accounts for more than half (51 per cent) of the overseas travel pie this CNY.
What caught my eye is that a new generation of Chinese professionals who are working in first-tier cities in China, such as Shanghai or Beijing, or in other countries outside China, are not returning home for the Spring Festival, which officially starts from January 27 to February 2 this year. Instead, according to search engine Wego, they are flying their parents and extended family to the city they work in. The family then either stays put in the city for a holiday or travel to another destination for a vacation.
Several factors are helping to drive this trend. Chinese families are getting smaller. With one or two children now, compared with seven or more before, it is more feasible to get together in a different country.
The airline industry plays a huge role. There are new routes and improved connectivity. Seat capacity rose 370 per cent in January from China to Czech Republic, Spain 178 per cent, the UK 9.3 per cent and Russia eight per cent, according to ForwardKeys, which also notes that Europe is back in favour after a 7.4 per cent dip in 2016 most likely due to the string of terrorist attacks in several European cities. There are also more direct flights from second-tier Chinese cities to Asia, along with cheaper airfares. For instance, Hainan Airlines launched a direct flight from Changsha to Sydney last July with a promotional airfare of less than US$100. SilkAir launched a direct flight from Fuzhou to Singapore.
Asia has been receiving the largest chunk of CNY travellers and this year is no different. Ctrip’s top 10 overseas destinations this CNY are, with the exception of the US, Asian countries (Thailand, Japan, the US, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam).
Visa relaxation is also helping Asian countries to expand their share of the CNY travel pie. Among examples, a 10-year visa, effective last November, allows mainland Chinese travellers multiple entries to the country. Cambodia grants Chinese a three-year multiple-entry business and tourist visa from last September. Malaysia introduced e-visa services for them last March.
All the stars seem aligned for this trend to grow further and industry members should be well-equipped to handle more family travel. Take a leaf from the cruise industry. It is building new ships or reconfiguring existing ones to cater to multi-generational travel by mainland Chinese guests, for instance having more inter-connecting rooms.
My team and I wish all our Chinese readers family unity and togetherness in this Year of the Rooster.