China, renowned around the world for its iconic landmarks, breathtaking scenery, and booming economy, has become an increasingly popular tourist destination. But as more and more Chinese citizens visit other countries, it can mean more money being taken out of the country. In this article, we’ll explore why more Chinese tourism means more capital flight, and what implications this could have for the Chinese economy.
1. The Exploding Chinese Tourism Market
A Booming Industry
It’s no surprise that the Chinese tourism market is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. In 2002, the total number of outbound trips made by Chinese citizens was only 10 million; but since then, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of travellers from China. In 2019, it was estimated that over 150 million trips were made, representing a 14% growth from 2018.
The market has seen significant growth over the years because of beneficial policies set in place by the Chinese government, as well as an increasing number of Chinese citizens who can afford to travel for leisure. The key benefits of this booming Chinese tourism market include:
- Increased economic growth for countries that Chinese travellers visit
- The strengthening of global relationships between China and other nations
- New job opportunities in the travel and hospitality industry
From the influx of money that Chinese tourists bring to new and unique experiences, there’s no doubt that is having a big impact on the global travel industry.
2. China’s Surge in International Travel
In recent years, China has experienced an explosive increase in international travel out of the country, propelled primarily by the growth in economic prosperity of the country’s residents. The result has been a vast boom in travel that China has never seen before, and it looks to only be increasing as more Chinese people discover the joys of exploring the world.
The most astonishing statistic is that Chinese travellers made more than 130 million overseas trips in 2018, up from only 10 million in just 2000! This growth of over 1300% in just two decades is impossible to ignore and presents an exciting opportunity for many countries to leverage for their tourism industry. Chinese travellers are now prolific around the world, from the traditional destinations of Thailand, Japan and South Korea, to the more unique places like Serbia, the Solomon Islands and Mozambique.
- Key benefits of the surge in Chinese tourist numbers.
- Popular attractions for Chinese travellers.
- Challenges posed by the growth in international travel.
3. The Impact of Tourism on Capital Flight
Since the 1980s, tourism has become the world’s largest industry, and has been responsible for large flows of capital between countries. Unsurprisingly, tourism is linked to capital flight, or the removal of money from a country’s economy due to individuals and entities relocating funds abroad. Tourism can have an especially dramatic impact on poorer countries, where there is already a great amount of wealth inequality.
In such nations, the influx of tourism dollars can mean the rich have the ability to further withdraw capital from their countries of origin. The more money that moves offshore, the less money that flows back into the infrastructure of the country and benefits the citizens living there. As is the case with many countries, the government does little in the way of regulating domestic and foreign investments, so capital flight is often uncontrolled. While some governments have made hefty attempts to regulate it, oftentimes the richest are still able to find loopholes and take their funds abroad.
- Tourism has become the world’s largest industry
- The influx of tourism dollars can mean the rich have the ability to further withdraw capital from their countries of origin
- Capital flight is often uncontrolled
4. Making Sense of the Link Between Chinese Tourism and Capital Flight
Chinese tourism is one of the central causes of capital flight out of the country, with increasing numbers of Chinese travelers choosing to vacation abroad as opposed to within. But why is this the case?
The link between Chinese tourism and capital flight can be broken down into a few key factors:
- The rise of Chinese outbound travel: increasing numbers of Chinese travelers are now exploring the world outside the country and looking to splurge on the luxuries available abroad. This could denote the nation’s growing disposable income and aspirations for a more elevated lifestyle.
- The currency exchange rate: the current exchange rate between the Chinese Renminbi (yuan) and other currencies presents travelers with more buying power abroad than they’d have at home, a strong motivation for taking trips overseas.
- International offerings: the sheer variety of holiday options available around the globe allow tourists to plan the perfect getaway, while the ease of visa applications invites travelers to visit destinations of their dreams.
Every year, the Chinese tourism industry sees more people opting to explore the world outside their country. This has resulted in huge piles of domestic capital being siphoned off abroad, leaving the Chinese economy weaker than before. Although increasing tourism is a welcomed development for other countries, for China, it indicates a serious lack of investment opportunities within.
It is thus, clear that the Chinese economy must find ways to encourage tourism within, while seeking out foreign investment sources—all of which will help reignite the nation’s growth and build better financial stability. The increase in Chinese tourism and global spending abroad is a powerful reminder that the global economy is shifting. As more and more Chinese citizens travel the world and take their money abroad, it’s important to remember that the resulting capital flight isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just like any other form of international exchange, it has the potential to bring greater economic success to both sides of the equation.