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12 Jun, 2014

Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam hit as Chinese tourists head for East Asia

By Zheng Xin

Beijing, (China Daily) 2014-06-11 – More tourists from China have been heading to East Asia in recent months, deterred from traveling to traditionally popular destinations such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

Travel agencies nationwide have reported a 50 percent year-on-year increase in visits to South Korea in the past few months.

“While some tourists canceled trips to Southeast Asia, most chose other places. South Korea, with its convenient flights and affordable tour packages, has won many Chinese hearts,” said Shi Kaifeng, a publicity officer at Ctrip.com International, a Chinese online travel agency.

The agency estimated that more than 100,000 Chinese tourists would head to South Korea via its service this year.

Other agencies, including China International Travel Services and BTG International Travel and Tours, have reported similar increases.

Other short-haul destinations such as Japan, Cambodia and Singapore are also seeing more tourists from China, Shi said.

Yang Jinsong, a professor at the China Tourism Academy who focuses on international tourism, said mainland travelers have become less willing to visit Southeast Asia.

This is due to negative impressions following the disappearance in March of a Malaysia Airlines plane on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 239 people, 154 of them Chinese.

Yang said Chinese tourists have also been deterred by anti-China violence in Vietnam, disturbances in the Philippines and Thailand and misunderstandings between mainland tourists and Hong Kong residents.

The China National Tourism Administration has warned tourists against visiting Vietnam, while some mainland travel agencies have suspended tours to some destinations in Southeast Asia.

“The Chinese mainland is one of the major tourist sources for those destinations, and it is estimated that these negative perceptions will last for some time,” Yang said.

Ye Xiaoxu, 27, who lives in Tianjin, will visit Singapore this year instead of Malaysia and Thailand.

She said she didn’t feel as though she would be welcome in some places, adding, “Anti-China violence doesn’t make for an ideal holiday destination”.

Yang said a surge in outbound tourists to the United States and European countries may not have resulted from negative impressions of Southeast Asia.

“Many of the tourists heading to American and European destinations are people who have traveled before and are no longer satisfied with their initial overseas experiences,” Yang said.

Hu Shunan, a publicity officer at BTG International Travel and Tours, said Chinese arrivals in South Korea and Japan in the first four months of the year had risen by 66 percent year-on-year.

Arrivals from China in Southeast Asia have fallen by 45 percent, he said.

Hu said the short flight time and affordable tour packages are the major reasons for South Korea’s popularity.

An eased visa policy has also helped boost the country’s popularity, he said, adding that Seoul may follow Jeju Island in introducing a visa-waiver for Chinese visitors.

With some budget airlines starting more frequent and direct flights to destinations in South Korea and Japan, these countries will benefit greatly from Chinese tourists, he said.