Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Fri October 23 2015

Global Study: Who Travels The Most?

Features & Advice | Josh Lew | October 23, 2015

Global Study: Who Travels The Most?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Which region has the most travel-happy citizens? People in the EU can hop in the car and be in another country in a few hours. Or they can snag a Ryanair flight and be in foreign airspace in a matter of minutes.

Lately, however, people from the Asia Pacific region are traveling more than anyone else. According to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, APAC residents took more leisure trips than their European or American counterparts.  

The Visa study asked people if they had traveled for leisure at any point over the past two years. Of those surveyed, 84 percent in East Asia said that had, indeed, taken a trip solely for pleasure.

The global average, by the way, was 76 percent.

Crunching the numbers

People from the Americas came in slightly above average at a (surprising?) 79 percent. In Europe, 81 percent of respondents had taken a vacation purely for fun in the past 24 months. Africa and the Middle East brought up the rear with 54 percent of the respondents saying they had traveled for pleasure.

All of the countries with the biggest increases in leisure travel in the past two years were in East or Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan have all increased their amount of leisure travel by more than 10 percent since 2013. The US and Australia, meanwhile, saw an 18 percent drop in the number of people taking leisure trips since the 2013 Visa survey.

Finding the free spenders

Perhaps the most interesting finding was not that more people from Asia were traveling internationally, but the way these travelers planned their trips and mapped out their budgets.

The survey paid special attention to one of the fastest growing groups of international tourists: travelers from China.

Visa looked at the budgeting approach of these tourists, and then compared their planning style to the rest of the world. Travelers were asked if they focused on finding the best experiences or on finding experiences that fit within a pre-planned budget. In China, 56 percent of survey respondents said budget came a distant second and their focus was firmly on finding the best experiences. In other countries, 46 percent of travelers gave the same response. At the same time, only 18 percent of Chinese travelers said they kept a strict budget while traveling, as opposed to the 29 percent of budget-conscious travelers from the “rest of the world” group.

Who has the most fun?

Also, Chinese travelers were more likely to party when they went on vacation, with 57 percent saying they sought out the local nightlife scene (bars, clubs, etc). In contrast, 30 percent of other respondents went out on the town after dark.

It’s no wonder that countries are focusing so many of their tourism promotion efforts on China. According to the data, Chinese travelers tend to take a fun-loving, free-spending approach to travel… and that approach could do wonders for a country’s tourism economy.

Ironically, cash is still king

Finally, the Visa survey contained a bit of irony. When asked how they preferred to pay for their goods and experiences when in a foreign country, 77 percent of respondents said they relied mainly on cash, while 51 percent said they also used credit cards. Interestingly 8 percent said they still carry travelers checks (up from 3 percent in 2013).  

Part of the Asia Pacific’s travel increase probably has to do with the region’s recent economic success. It may be as simple a formula as this: more middle class citizens means more leisure travel. Travel insiders will surely be watching the region to see if the leisure-travel trends continue in the coming years.

You can see the full PDF of the Visa Global Travel Intentions Study here.


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