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Europe in for Bonanza Chinese Tourism Year

Europe in for Bonanza Chinese Tourism Year Europe in for Bonanza Chinese Tourism Year

The stars are aligning for a bumper year of Chinese tourism in Europe thanks to a growing taste for culture over shopping and fears of a cold reception in America under President Donald Trump.

"We came with our children to see the art, the culture, not to go to the mall," a 40-year-old woman who gave her name as Li told Reuters on a visit to Paris for the second time.

Leisure travel bookings for July and August in Europe are up more than 4% from the same period of last year after an even stronger June, which coincided with a Chinese holiday, according to data tracked by consultancy ForwardKeys.

"This year will certainly be the year with the highest number of arrivals from China ever," said Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, a consultancy based in Germany.

The US president's stand on trade relations with Beijing and illegal immigration, as well as his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries, is off-putting even though his tough talk is not directed at Chinese visitors.

"Mr. Trump has been helping to push Chinese tourists to go to other countries," Arlt said.

While Chinese bookings for Europe are up, those for the United States are down more than 9% for the year to July 22 compared with the same period of 2017, ForwardKeys data showed.

Chinese tourism numbers in Europe staged a patchy recovery last year as memories of the 2015 attacks in France and other European cities faded.

France, the latest country to join the revival, is seeing particularly strong bookings growth this summer, up over 9%, according to ForwardKeys.

  World's Biggest Spenders 

Chinese tourists are collectively the world's biggest spenders on international tourism, forking out $258 billion last year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

That means, with 143 million international tourist trips last year, they spent on average $1,800, though Arlt said the average was probably distorted by lavish spending by a wealthy minority.

Though questions linger over how much is actually spent on tourism abroad, there is little doubt the spending is only going to keep growing.

Two-thirds of Chinese expect to increase their travel budget in the next 12 months, according to an Ipsos survey of more than 3,000 Chinese people in May for Hotels.com.

While in the past Chinese tourists spent lavishly on European luxury goods, they are increasingly focusing on special experiences such as staying in boutique hotels, dining in fancy restaurants and seeking out local products, the survey showed.

"They would rather buy a painting by a local painter than another Gucci bag," Arlt said.

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