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How Chinese travel patterns are changing; Japanese and Thai airports make biggest gains

Outbound Chinese travel has tilted appreciably in favour of Japan and Thailand in the 12 months to October 2016, according to CiR Business Lounge – creating more sales opportunities for duty-free and travel retailers in key airport locations in these markets. 

In new intelligence on the Chinese Passenger, duty-free and travel retail analyst and researcher, Counter Intelligence Retail, points to booming growth at Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) of +140% and +96% at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport (DMK).

HND’s triple-digit growth enabled the airport to break the one million barrier for international Chinese arrivals, while DMK reached 1.18m. 

Both of these are secondary airports to the two capital cities’ main hubs of Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) which saw respective growth of +1.6% and +17.9%. While their growth was of a lesser scale, these bigger airports handled more absolute numbers of Chinese passengers than their smaller counterparts.  

Other strong airports for Chinese travel among the top 10 destinations were Japan’s Osaka (KIX) at +18.7%, and Singapore Changi (SIN) at +17.0% and Seoul Incheon (ICN) in South Korea at +16.2%, both showing a return to form. South Korea, traditionally strong market for Chinese visitors, suffered dramatically after the MERS virus outbreak in May 2015 but traffic to Incheon has recovered well since then.

There was less favourable news for duty-free and travel retailers in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) saw its Chinese traffic decline by -0.8% to 2.7m international passengers in the 12 months to October 2016, while Hong Kong – the biggest hub for Chinese travel – was sluggish at +2.3% to 4.5m.

Garry Stasiulevicuis, President, comments: “From our CiR Business Lounge data it is clear that Japan and Thailand are the clear winners in the drive for Chinese passengers. The more settled political situation in Thailand has seen Chinese passengers return to the country in droves while Japan’s relaxation of visa regulations (in January 2015) has benefited Chinese travel to Japan.”

HND’s astonishing growth can be specifically attributed to flights having begun from three new routes out of China, coupled with huge uplifts in seat capacities by airlines already operating flights on this route.

“It is worth noting that HND’s Chinese traffic boom has come despite the Japanese yen’s strong gains against the Chinese yuan from August 2015 to October 2016,” adds Stasiulevicuis. “Since November, however, the yen has fallen back somewhat which may open the door to even more Chinese travel to Japan.”

CiR are unveiling a range of new intelligence on the Chinese passenger from their sophisticated insight into shopper behaviours and traffic trends, including forecasts, which complements the newly available Chinese Shopper Tracker. For more information on the in-depth analysis available please contact; +44 (0) 8459 013640

NB. PAX Source: CiR Business Lounge | Advanced Analytics Tool - Data based on Scheduled departing international passengers only. Data displayed for nationalities is based on residency through place of ticket purchase