Tourism insight: A comparison in how Western and Chinese people travel
With the Chinese tourism market currently one of the largest outbound demographic, it’s no surprise that Chinese tourists are everywhere. However, this was not always the case.
In the past decade, China saw rapid economic development which led to the emergence of an affluent middle class. These are individuals between 25 to 40 years old with high spending power, and a significant amount of disposable income. To illustrate, annual spending by Chinese travellers abroad skyrocketed from $14.2 billion in 2000 to more than $277.2 billion in 2018.
Compared to the West — where tourism started as early as the 1800s — tourism in China has heightened recently, as what was mostly a luxury for many. This has changed drastically and it is now extremely common to see Chinese tourists abroad.
As we continue to explore cultural characteristics and cross-border mindsets, let’s look at how travelling behaviours in Western and Chinese people differ.
How they travel
Generally speaking, many from China tend to travel in groups — either with tourism companies or with family and friends. When travelling with tourism agencies, travel schedules are often customized, and heavily focused on sightseeing at famous locations.
Likewise, many people in North America travel with a group of friends, families, or partners — but solo travelling is much more common. Partially due to the anxiety of encountering foreign languages, customs, and foods, individual travel is still very rare among Chinese people.
When they travel
As a whole, Chinese people typically travel during national holidays — which results in a significant rise in holiday spending that helps drive the Chinese economy. However, work is still mandatory for many of those in the service sector during this time period. Meanwhile, many in North America would take time off for a trip, no matter the time of year.
Different holidays are also celebrated in the East and West. Chinese people get a week-long break during Chinese New Year as it is the most important annual celebration, but not on holidays such as Christmas. There are several week-long holidays throughout the year — during Labor Day and China National Day, for example — as opposed to long weekends in North America.
Why they travel
People around the world travel for many different reasons — whether it’s for leisure, family, or because of a general interest to learn about a country.
However, between Chinese and North American cultures, both groups often have distinct motivations for their trips. Many people in Canadian and American cultures view travel as a form of relaxation, and that visiting famous sites is not always the goal. As well, many who solo travel see their trips as a time for self-reflection.
On the contrary, Chinese people tend to gravitate towards tourist attractions and seek higher-end experiences. As social status is highly regarded in Chinese culture and many traditions are based on collectivism, there is often peer pressure to take photos at famous tourist spots and share them with others.
Either way, travelling to different parts of the world requires an understanding of norms and customs of each culture. Similarly, for brands in the tourism industry, it’s also important to learn how to cater messaging, services, and customer service towards the desired audience — and to do so requires a deeper knowledge of customer habits.
As a cultural leader in building digital platforms for creativity, growth, and connections, Sageus Collective aims to bridge North American and Chinese communities, and that begins with helping people understand what makes each culture unique.
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