Here’s Jing Travel’s weekly guide to stories providing insight into Chinese travel trends and how they affect the industry’s main players.
SO LONG, SIAM
The Thai tourism industry is in trouble. After decades of capitalizing on the world’s backpack travelers, it turned to the Chinese market in the early 2010s and succeeded in making it the biggest source of tourists shortly thereafter. But the 2018 Phuket boat disaster, in which nearly 50 Chinese drowned, shocked potential visitors and meant many Chinese tour operators moved to Vietnam and Cambodia. Chinese visitors are down 5 percent and hotels on the southern Thai island of Phuket are bemoaning a 40 to 50 percent decline in room occupancy (30 percent of all Phuket tourists Chinese). Another factor disincentivizing travelers is the growing strength of the Baht against the Dollar, which makes holidaying in Thailand less affordable compared to other Southeast Asian countries.
DIGITAL GIFT SHOP
Tmall’s latest report, “New Trends on Cultural Consumption” (Aug 15), highlights the continued efforts of museums to collaborate with the e-commerce platform. The demand for wenchuang products, culturally inspired goods designed by museums, continues to grow with online museum stores having been visited 1.6 billion in the past year. In response, Tmall has introduced “New Wenchuang 2.0 Project,” a project to produce collection highlight products from prestigious museums worldwide. Tmall hopes to help develop products for a staggering 10,000 brands in the next three years. “2019 is a turning point,” said Jia Luo, director of Tmall Operation Department. “Collaborations between museums and brands is an explosive development.”
Spurring domestic consumption remains a priority for China’s economic planners and increasing cultural consumption — in areas such as tours, museum going, and sightseeing — is central to such efforts. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Lanzhou and Dunhuang in northwestern China reemphasized the importance of “understanding” and “absorbing” traditional cultural ahead of foreign ones. It comes against the backdrop of China’s booming outbound travel market and a push by the government to encourage spending domestically on public holidays. Xi’s trip may also serve to add Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring hundreds of Buddhist frescos, to the bucket list of Chinese travelers.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Brooklyn Museum will hope to see an uptick in Chinese visitors when it reopens its Arts of China section in October. The updated exhibitions will pair masterworks with contemporary artworks to highlight the artistic techniques and concepts across the centuries. Mainland travelers remain keen on engaging with China’s rich cultural history when abroad — as shown by the enduring popularity of the MET’s Chinese collection — and the six-year renovation should raise the profile of the museum among the more than 1 million Chinese who travel to New York each year.