Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Wed November 04 2015

Up-and-Coming Tourist Destinations Court Chinese Travelers

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | November 04, 2015

Up-and-Coming Tourist Destinations Court Chinese Travelers

Up-and-coming tourist destinations are always on the lookout for new places to market their best attractions. Many of these developing spots choose to advertise in countries they already have some sort of connection with: a common language, a shared colonial history, the overseas popularity of a local sports franchise…. 

Sometimes, the goal is simply to tap into a huge market of potential travelers and convince a small fraction of this population to visit. That is the strategy for countries that are currently busy marketing their tourist attractions in China. Even Rwanda, which has no historic, cultural or linguistic ties to the Middle Kingdom, took part in the recent Beijing International Tourism Commodities Fair. 

Doing well in China can change a country’s tourism fortunes

Getting lots of visitors from China can change an entire country’s tourism industry. Because of political unrest and terror attacks, everyone expected Thailand’s 2015 international arrival numbers to be dismal. They were not, thanks, in large part, to the millions of Chinese tourists who came despite these problems. 

Rwanda, meanwhile, is preparing for a travel boom after agreeing to a single visa scheme and an open skies policy with neighboring Kenya and Uganda. Rwanda Air will launch direct flights between Kigali and Beijing next year, hoping to make it as easy as possible for some of China’s tens of millions of outbound travelers to come to the small East African country. 

Rwanda has completed a remarkable turnaround since its horrific 1994 genocide. It is now one of the safest and most-user-friendly countries in the region as far as tourism is concerned. This is a big selling point in China (and elsewhere). 

Currency and consulates

Another tourism up-and-comer, Cambodia, is being even more aggressive when it comes to courting Chinese tourists. The country has made plans to open up additional consulates in China and to establish more direct flights between Phnom Penh and smaller Chinese cities. 

The biggest move by Cambodian authorities is trying to get local merchants to accept Chinese currency. Many shopkeepers do accept foreign bills, but they prefer U.S. Dollars, not Chinese Yuan. Long-time Cambodian PM, Hun Sen, wants to enact legislation that will make it more advantageous for shop owners to accept yuan. 

Chinese travelers can make or break a country’s tourism industry

Cambodia hopes to more than double the number of Chinese arrivals over the next five years. Current projections foresee about 700,000 visitors from the PRC by year’s end. The goal is to top two million by 2020. Cambodia may even try to use regional tensions to its advantage.

Vietnam, a favorite of Chinese tourists in recent years because of its long coastline and familiar cultural practices, has seen a slump recently. Tensions over claims in the South China Sea have led to demonstrations against China in Vietnam’s cities. These instances have left many Chinese tourists afraid to travel to Vietnam. Cambodia hopes to promote a more welcoming environment to inspire these would-be travelers to choose it instead its neighbor. 

Even with its slumping economy, China is still a major source of tourists for destinations around the world. As we saw in Thailand just this year, a high number of visitors from the Middle Kingdom can really bolster a tourism industry.  

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