Are Asian resort destinations prepared for the massive Chinese outbound market?

Are Asian resort destinations prepared for the massive Chinese outbound market?

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Click on circle for destination.

The blue circles in the map above shows the relative size of tourist arrivals into each destination. Circle sizes are proportioned to total tourist arrivals based on the table below.

Look at the arrivals into Hainan. No other coastal resort destination comes close. We posted previously on Hainan being the elephant-in-the-room in coastal tourism.


Resort Destination Tourist Arrivals 2012

Destination: International Domestic Total (million)
Hainan 1.0 30.0 31.0
Bali 2.9 5.0 7.9
Phuket 2.5 2.2 4.7
Langkawi 2.8 0.2 3.0
Goa 0.5 2.3 2.8
Danang 0.7 2.0 2.7
Boracay 1.2
Lombok 1.0
Sri Lanka 1.0 1.0
Koh Samui 0.1 0.8 0.9
Bintan 0.4 0.1 0.5
Phu Quoc 0.4
Total 11.9 42.6 57.1


Some questions come to mind:

Are resort destinations prepared for a massive Chinese outbound market?

We all know that Chinese visitors into Phuket and Bali have been growing rapidly. In 2012 Chinese visitors were the largest group of international arrivals into Phuket and the second largest into Bali. In fact a poll by Tripadvisor has Phuket as the leading resort destination by Chinese outbound travelers.

If Hainan is already getting 30 million domestic tourist a year, is it inconceivable that at some point in future another 30 million Chinese visitors can pour into other Asian coastal destinations?

Already Chinese outbound are at the 100 million mark. What will it mean for resort destinations as this figure increases to 400 million as announced Chinese President Xi Jinping?

International arrivals into these existing destinations covered here is already at 12 million per year and only a small, but nonetheless significant, proportion of that is the Chinese market.

Mark Gwyther’s analysis on the historical basis for USA-Mexico tourism development has parallels not only for China-Vietnam tourism development but also the rest of Southeast Asia. If the USA and Canada can contribute 20 million arrivals to Mexico in 2012 don’t you think the larger Chinese market can match and surpass that figure into the rest of Asia in time to come?

Do these destinations even want such a massive market? And even if they had the intention to capture this market can they cope?

Are destinations planning for this possible eventuality? What are they doing about it?

How many more hotel rooms?

What’s the number of hotel rooms required to cater to 30 million new arrivals – assuming 75% occupancy, 4 nights average-length-of-stay, 2 persons per room?

Impact on destination development

How will this impact existing infrastructure, human resources, water resource, environment management, airlift capacity? How will it re-shape societies and destinations?

Take for example Bali. What will a doubling of tourist arrivals mean for its land management, agriculture and environment?

What about Phuket? Its air access capacity has more or less reached its limit. Will it be able to expand further or will other Thai destinations take up the slack?

What about the Philippines? Boracay may be popular but its an extremely small island. What are the other options?

What about even Hawaii? Can you imagine that the island’s long time planner says that Maui’s infrastructure has reached maximum capacity? On top of this Hawaiian tourism consultant Ron Watanable believes further visitor arrivals can only grow from expanding to other islands.

Opportunities for emerging destinations

What are the other coastal resort locations that will benefit from the Chinese outbound market?

  • Secondary and lesser developed destinations like Koh Samui and Langkawi, islands in the Philippines (because of proximity) as well as coastal Vietnam and coastal Thailand.

There will definitely be a lot of opportunities for secondary destinations to move up their game but at the same time lots of works needs to be done to capture a potentially vast Chinese outbound market.

Opportunities for investors

Where are some of the best emerging coastal development opportunities for investors?

Setting aside political, cultural, religious and administrative considerations some of the best locations for emerging coastal tourism investment are really countries with limited coastline, domestic economic growth, large local population and proximity to the Chinese market. Essentially where coastal land for tourism development is limited.  You can read more about these places here.


Do you think most Asian resort destinations are on top of their tourism game? (In terms of destination development, forward planning, environment management, marketing, etc)

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