20 February 2019
Chinese tourists wear rented kimonos on a visit to a temple in Kyoto in May last year. Photo: Bloomberg
Chinese tourists wear rented kimonos on a visit to a temple in Kyoto in May last year. Photo: Bloomberg

Japan top destination for mainland tourists, HK loses popularity

Japan is gaining popularity as a destination for mainland Chinese tourists, while Hong Kong is losing its attraction for them, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a new survey.

Mainlanders have become more interested in exploring new lifestyles and destinations and are less obsessed with shopping, the newspaper cited researchers as saying. 

Changes in visa rules and plane accidents in Southeast Asia have also affected travel trends, it said.

The 4,300 respondents to the survey by Travelzoo Asia Pacific – a licensee of Travelzoo Inc., a global travel deal website – were asked to choose their five favorite destinations from a list of 44. 

Japan led the poll, with 39.6 percent of respondents ranking it as one of their top choices this year, up from 29.2 percent a year earlier. The yen has fallen about 10 percent against the renminbi in the past 12 months.

“As the yen keeps weakening, Chinese are not only going to Japan to shop but also buy properties in some cases,” the report quoted Vivian Hong, president of Travelzoo’s China operation, as saying.

Some Chinese travelers avoided Japan in previous years because of political tensions, but the country eased its visa policies last year, helping to increase demand, Hong said. 

Changes in visa policies have also made the United States a more attractive destination for mainland Chinese tourists.

The proportion of people who chose the US as a top destination rose to 31.4 percent from 28.9 percent last year. Washington and Beijing agreed late last year to extend the length of tourist and business visas for each country’s citizens to 10 years from one year.

Only 8.7 percent of respondents chose Hong Kong as a top destination, compared with 11.9 percent last year.

The attraction of duty-free shopping in Hong Kong is fading as high rents have pushed up retail prices, narrowing the city’s advantage over the mainland, the report cited brokerage CLSA as saying. Rich Chinese are also looking for new destinations.

Malaysia fell to 5.8 percent from 9.9 percent in the wake of crashes suffered by airlines based in the country.

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