Chinese Tourists Spend More Money Than Anyone Else

Chinese travelers have officially become the biggest contributors to the tourism industry, spending a whopping $102 billion on vacations and other travel in 2012.

Figures from the UN World Tourism Organization revealed the Asian country has dramatically upped its travel spending, with last year’s expenditure up 40 percent from the prior year.

The organization credits China’s increased spending to the growing numbers of people entering the middle class.

According to the BBC, not only are the Chinese dedicating more money to travel, they are also shifting their spending habits. Instead of taking organized tours and joining busloads of other tourists, more and more Chinese are hiring cars and traveling independently.

However, one thing hasn’t changed – the Chinese still love to shop. Purchasing souvenirs and luxury goods remains high on the list of favorite travel activities.

Other emerging countries have also shot up the list. Russia’s travel spending increased by more than 30 percent last year, boosting the country to fifth place.

The United States came in at third place behind Germany, with tourism spending totaling just under $84 billion dollars.

[Photo credit: Flickr user bigbirdz]

You’re going to book travel online this year

travel onlineBusiness travel isn’t the only category on the rise these days: everyone else seems to be spending more on travel too.

I ran into an article on eMarketer’s blog this morning that shows leisure and unmanaged business travel is on the mend, after what’s been a tough couple of years. After falling in 2009, the sector ticked upward in 2010.

Leisure and unmanaged business travel spending are expected hit $107.4 billion this year, according to eMarketer’s estimates. That would be a gain of 8.5 percent over last year’s $99 billion.

People are traveling more, it seems. But, there’s more to it than that. We’re also spending more for the privilege of being bumped with the beverage cart and scolded for not turning off our Kindles and iPhones.

And, we’re increasingly likely to do our homework online. This year, more than 114 million would-be travelers will research their options on the web, says eMarketer, and 93.9 million will pull the trigger and actually book online. The average online travel buyer is likely to spend $1,213 this year, up from $1,145 in 2010.

Top five cities for travel spending … and the bottom of the barrel, too

Hey, Arlington, Virginia residents, why are you spending so much on travel? Do you really want to get out that badly? According to a report by Bundle.com, the folks who live in Arlington spent twice the national average on travel last year: a whopping $3,534 per household. Nationwide, the norm came in at $1,571 for 2009. Meanwhile, Detroit residents spent a meager $1,158 per household on travel last year due largely to the dismal economic conditions there.

The top five cities for travel spending last year (i.e., people who live there paid to go elsewhere) aren’t terribly surprising, in that they tend to be affluent and close to major airports.

1. Arlington, VA – $3,534
2. San Francisco, CA – $3,460
3. Washington, DC – $3,409
4. Scottsdale, AZ – $3,372
5. New York, NY – $3,274
And if there’s a top five list, there must be one for the bottom, right? Garland, Texas residents either love the place so much they don’t like to leave or simply have little appreciation for the outside world: they spent an average of $647 per household on travel last year.

5. Greensboro, NC – $820
4. Lexington, KY – $809
3. Memphis, TN – $683
2. Chula Vista, CA – $676
1. Garland, TX – $647

[photo by Beverly & Pack via Flickr]

Europeans complain about U.S. travel fees

Extra fees charged by airlines, the “new normal,” are so popular that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has gotten into the game. And, bitching about these fees is equally popular, prompting the European Parliament to sound off like its members are Ryanair passengers with full bladders and no coin for the slot.

At issue is a planned $10 charge for Europeans coming to the United States. The European Parliament calls the charge unfair, saying it amounts to a new visa restriction. Enrst Strasser, a lawmaker from Austria, says that the requirements for entry under the Obama administration are even harder than they were under the previous (U.S.) government and that for us is a contradiction that we in the European Parliament cannot accept,” Austrian lawmaker Ernst Strasser told Napolitano during a special hearing with her. “We really have to insist on our European values, that European data protection laws and European civil liberties also have to be taken account of.”

Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, calls the fee reasonable, since the United States doesn’t have an agency for travel and tourism, “unlike many of your countries,” she said of the European states. The $10 fee would be used to “fund and help tourists and travelers who wish to come to the United States.” Since budgets are constrained at both federal and local levels, Napolitano feels this is a reasonable move.

The money has to come from somewhere, and if Washington has to choose between taxing Americans and taxing everyone else, who do you think wins? Napolitano may not be an elected official, but her boss sure is. There’s a pretty clear need for travel-related revenue in D.C., and the government needs to invest in promoting visits from overseas. When people cross a border to come here, that’s a net inflow of money into the United States.

Despite European objections, the numbers suggest that this isn’t a bad idea. Foreign spending in the United States has fallen for the past year, with drops becoming particularly severe last spring and continuing without reprieve. From August 2008 to August 2009, spending by visitors from other countries fell 21 percent, marking the fourth consecutive month of declines worse than 20 percent.

When it’s time to pass the hat, nobody wants to reach into his pocket.