World Bridge Tourism and GEM conferences in London underline a rise in popularity of the continent for all source markets, but especially China.

Indeed, according to data from ForwardKeys, the boom in Chinese outbound travel is set to continue unabated, and the ETOA forecasts a “possible” huge hike in Chinese visitors to Europe next year.

Laurens van den Oever, ForwardKeys’ Chief Marketing Officer, who was speaking at the World Bridge Tourism conference in London, said: “The Chinese dragon is breathing more hotly than ever. Bookings for outbound travel during Chinese New Year, in February 2018, are currently 40% ahead of where they were at the same time last year.”

China Outbound

Looking at a broader period, from the beginning of November until the end of February, bookings are also strongly ahead. The destinations which currently look set to enjoy the most positive growth are: Thailand, where Chinese bookings are currently 47% ahead of where they were at this point last year, Vietnam, 40% ahead, France, 31% ahead, Singapore 28% ahead, Japan 27% ahead and Canada, 23% ahead.

World Bridge Tourism is a project supported by the European Union, in order to increase the flows of visitors from China to the EU. World Bridge Tourism Shanghai was held in conjunction with ITB China on the 9th-10th May 2017 and World Bridge Tourism London took place alongside the Global European Marketplace on the 2nd-3rd November. The programme combined a conference and a B2B workshop between tourism-related EU companies (particularly SMEs) and Chinese operators.

The project was supported by an extensive programme of research and webinars aimed at increasing the understanding of the needs of Chinese visitors within the European tourism community. World Bridge Tourism is the curtain raiser for the “2018 EU–China Tourism Year”, during which an unprecedented level of attention will be paid to the growing importance of China as an origin market, and the changing preferences and behaviour patterns of Chinese visitors.

Alongside WBT, GEM, the European tourism association’s member-exclusive B2B networking event, matching tourism suppliers with global, European and domestic tour operators facilitated 20,000 one on one meetings, 30% more than in 2016. This was due to an injection of one hundred tour operator buyers from China who were in London as part of the World Bridge Tourism project.

Tom Jenkins

ETOA CEO, Tom Jenkins

ETOA CEO, Tom Jenkins, said the combination of GEM and World Bridge Tourism brought together “the most potent group of professional tourism buyers we have ever hosted”, adding, “Together they represent over UK£12 bn of expenditure on hospitality, transport, visitor attractions and other goods and services consumed by tourists.”

“These leading Chinese inbound Tour Operators, who sell Europe in China, were able to take part in multi-country fam trips on Continental Europe, before arriving in London for this B2B networking meeting,” explained Jenkins, adding, “In the conference on the Thursday afternoon, we discussed, in very broad terms, future trends for the Chinese market. We were looking at a whole range of different opinions within the travel sector with regard to what the future demand and shape of Chinese demand for Europe might be.”

Demand for Europe is rising in all the core origin markets – not just China, says the ETOA CEO: “When you look at the USA, which is obviously the engine for European inbound tourism, figures are up between 10% and 15% for the next year. Looking at China, which is a more volatile market, bookings for next year, during the Golden week, look like they’re going to be way up – maybe 40% year-on-year. Anything could happen between now and then, and this is not the main booking period. China is becoming a notoriously late booking market.”