According to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) the number of Chinese travelling overseas during the Golden Week this year was close to six million, up from four million in 2015.  The countries benefiting from this rise are South Korea, Thailand and Japan for short-haul travel, and the US, Russia and the UK for long-haul travel, according to a survey conducted by Ctrip, China’s largest online travel marketplace.

Although millennials represent 22% of the Chinese population, they account for half of those Chinese travellers flying abroad, according to Ctrip. Furthermore, millennial consumers also accounted for two-thirds of outbound travel spending –  4.5 billion euro. The average Chinese tourist spent an estimated 8,000 yuan (1,100 euro) during the national holiday, more than the average monthly salary of 6,070 yuan (829 euro), according to research conducted by Zhaopin Recruitment.

Helping to drive this increase is the growing middle class in second-tier and third-tier Chinese cities, along with a move towards more rational and diverse behaviour among Chinese global travellers in general, which increasingly encompasses five-star luxury hotels, specialist restaurants and inspirational local experiences. With income levels in Tier Two and Tier Three cities now close to those in Tier One cities, market research organisation Fung Global Retail says Tier Two cities have become an important driving force behind the increase in outbound travel, according to its recent Golden Week review report. The average annual household income in Tier Two cities is 107,606 yuan (14,694 euro), close to the average in Tier One cities of 123,106 yuan (16,810 euro) according to statistics from Prosper Insights and Analytics for the second quarter (Q2) of 2016.

The availability of more international flights has also facilitated the growth of overseas travel. Among the 132 new international routes approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in Q2 2016, over 60% originate in Tier Two or Three locations. Aiding this, both the US and UK have relaxed their visa rules, extending the visa validity from one to 10 years and implementing a two-year visa system, up from six months, respectively. Given security concerns in other European and global destinations, coupled with favourable exchange rates and noteworthy cultural experiences, this put both locations in an excellent position to attract Chinese visitors.

Global Blue takeouts:

• The relaxation of visa restrictions by multiple countries has encouraged a record level of Chinese outbound tourism. The UK, Cambodia and Russia saw Chinese visitor arrivals in Golden Week increase by +60% YoY.

• Changing attitudes to spending are driving millennial middle-class consumers from Tier Two and Two cities towards experiential activities. Brands can exploit this by inviting consumers behind the scenes or providing an amplified level of service.

• Marketing initiatives by the US and UK governments has encouraged Chinese outbound tourists from Tier Two and Three cities to visit during Golden Week.

• Global Blue’s October transactions data shows that Europe drove this year’s Golden Week spending performance, led by the UK.