CHINA / National

China to be Asia's 2nd biggest tourist destination in 2006
Updated: 2006-06-07 08:40

According to a new Visa Asia Pacific tourism spending report, the biggest increase in tourist spending in Asia in 2005 was in China, where Visa cardholders spent US$636 million more last year than they did in 2004.

Destinations that drew the most tourist dollars in 2005 were Australia, Thailand and China. China is expected to overtake Thailand this year as the market receiving the second-largest amount of tourist dollars. China had attracted more tourist spending than Thailand in the last two quarters of 2005 and, over the next few months, is expected to report accelerated growth as interest is fueled by the nation's major marketing and tourism campaigns in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The report, entitled "Recent trends in spending by visitors to Asia Pacific," found Asia Pacific Visa cardholders to be the largest international spenders in the region at US$10 billion, 43 percent of total international spending.

"The report shows the growing importance of tourism to Asia Pacific economies; in 2005 alone there were more than 320 million visitors to Asia Pacific who spent up to US$110 billion in the region," said Paul Dowling, executive vice president for Visa International Asia Pacific.

"This income is vital to the region's economic well-being. We hope that by sharing our comprehensive data of where and how visitors spend their money, we can provide businesses, governments and tourism authorities with the information they need to develop their strategies and business models."

Just two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics, robust growth in tourist spending has been recorded in China. In 2005, China's total Visa tourist spending grew 31 percent over 2004 to US$2.7 billion. Asia Pacific Visa cardholders were the biggest international spenders, accounting for more than half of all international spending in China at US$1.5 billion.

Visa cardholders from the European Union were the second biggest spenders in China, spending US$629 million, representing 23 percent of the country's tourist spending on Visa cards. Latin America was the fastest growing source region with 75 percent growth in spending in China, reflecting closer business and cultural exchanges between the two regions. Among Visa cardholders, the biggest individual spending nations in China were the United States and Japan.

Among destinations within China, Shanghai attracted the most visitors in terms of spending in 2005. The thriving commercial hub drew both sightseers and business travelers, who spent US$587 million on their Visa cards, followed by Beijing with US$490 million, although this ranking order is likely to change in the near future.

"A tourism juggernaut is headed towards Beijing, which is forecast to receive 4.4 million overseas visitors spending 4.5 billion US dollars in 2008," said Dowling. "With China showing every indication of being the region's second largest tourism market in the next few months, it is critical that Visa and its Chinese member banks work together to help ensure that the payment infrastructure is ready to maximize fully this historical opportunity, so that more visitors to China can pay the way they do so back home.

"So far we are seeing solid results through our strategic partnership with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Tourism, where we are helping the city generate more inbound travel and tourism revenue, as well as working to help improve Beijing's payment environment."