Chinese tourists continue to put Europe at the top of their favorite destinations despite the relative slow-down in the Chinese economy and any concerns about Brexit, according to the latest figures from the European Travel Commission, in collaboration with the air travel analyst ForwardKeys.
The data show a 5.1-percent year-over-year increase in Chinese arrivals in EU destinations throughout 2018.
“The growth in Chinese travelers has been solid and the near future, judging by current bookings, will see the EU continuing to increase its share of this valuable market, not just to traditional destinations, but lesser-known and emerging ones as well,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director European Travel Commission.
Last year, the top three EU destinations by volume of Chinese arrivals were the U.K. (up 2.4 percent), Germany (up 2.6 percent) and France (up 7.7 percent). The three destinations with the most growth were Croatia (up 45.7 percent), Estonia (up 35.8 percent) and Hungary (up 25.1 percent).
Forward bookings also look robust. As of Dec. 31, Chinese bookings to the EU for the first four months of 2019 were 16.9 percent ahead of year-end 2017.
If the U.K. were excluded from the data, EU performance would look even stronger, with arrivals in the whole of 2018 up 5.8 percent. Similarly, forward bookings are 17.7 percent ahead for January-April, as opposed to 16.9 percent with the U.K. included.
The positive near-term outlook echoes a pattern that was seen last year. At the time, Chinese travel to the EU registered above-global-average performances for the two Golden Week periods (Feb. 17-21 and Oct. 2-7) in 2018. Central/Eastern EU was the fastest-growing region and outperformed the EU average during each of the three busy periods (the two Golden Weeks and the summer school break).
Chinese departures from mainland China were up 5.2 percent during 2018, and bookings are 16.7 percent ahead for January-April. It is a similar picture for Hong Kong and Macao, up 7.6 percent for 2018 and ahead 35.4 percent for the first four months of 2019. Tier-two cities Chengdu, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Xiamen are showing strong growth: up 18.1 percent for 2018, with bookings ahead 51.3 percent for January-April.