With their matching hats and bullhorn-equipped tour guides, Chinese tour groups may not win many style points, but according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization they’re doing more than anyone else prop up the global tourism industry.
China’s spending on outbound travel swelled to $102 billion last year, a 40% jump from 2011. That surge sent China screaming past Germany and the U.S. — the former No. 1 and No. 2 spenders, respectively — which both saw tourist outlays increase 6% year-on-year to around $84 billion in 2012, the UNWTO said in a statement on its website.
Thanks in part to growing disposable incomes and an easing of travel restrictions, 83 million Chinese citizens left their country in 2012, up from 10 million a decade ago, the UNWTO said.
Reuters notes that countries with similarly swelling middle classes have also seen massive growth in outbound tourism, while countries hit hardest by recession are experiencing the opposite:
Tourists from other fast-growing economies with swelling middle classes, like Russia and Brazil, also increased spending in 2012. In recession-hit Europe, however, French and Italian tourists reined in their holiday budgets.
“The impressive growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects the entry into the tourism market of a growing middle class from these countries,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.