BEIJING - The Chinese mainland is expected to record 21.6 million outbound tourists in the first half of 2008 with a year-on-year increase of 12.4 percent, according to a report issued by MasterCard Worldwide.
Friday's China Youth Daily quoted the report as saying that the Chinese mainland will lead the whole Asian-Pacific outbound travel market in the first six months this year.
According to the latest MasterCard Worldwide Index of Travel (MWIT), Asian-Pacific outbound markets will continue to be buoyant with more individual and business journeys in the first half of 2008 despite the economic uncertainty in the global financial market.
The market will see 79.5 million outbound tourists in the next six months, with over one quarter from the Chinese mainland, the report said.
It attributed the booming outbound travel market to the increasing number of middle-class Chinese.
The number of China's middle-class families would rise to 100 million in 2016 from 35 million in 2006 in such metropolises as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, it said.
"This, combined with the availability of low cost travel options, means Chinese travelers form a very influential group which is expected to continue to significantly shape trends in the travel business in 2008 and in years to come," said Dr. Hedrick Wong, economic advisor to MasterCard Worldwide in Asia Pacific.
China's Ministry of Tourism said early January that it recorded 40.95 million outbound tourists last year.
The country is undergoing its biggest festival season, the seven-day Spring Festival holidays.
A joint on-line survey by market information provider Nielson and Ctrip.com, a domestic tourism website, said that about 60 percent of Chinese netizens whose family monthly income tops 8,000 yuan (1,095 U.S. dollars) plan to go traveling during the Spring Festival and 11 percent of them want to travel abroad.
MasterCard, one of the world largest credit bodies, issues the report twice a year with surveys on individual and business travel in 13 markets in Asia Pacific.