Amy Duan's excellent adventure began in early August. An actress friend asked her and a talk-show host from China's Central Television to go traveling abroad. The women, all 27...
Amy Duan’s excellent adventure began in early August. An actress friend asked her and a talk-show host from China’s Central Television to go traveling abroad.
The women, all 27, hit the road. First, Duan said, came a $900-a-night resort on the beach of Phuket in Thailand, with daily massages, mango smoothies and frolics in the Andaman Sea.
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Next came the bustling streets of Bangkok, with mesmerizing fabrics, fiery food and hair-raising rides in pedicabs. And finally, the pièce de résistance, Hong Kong, where Duan said she and her friends dropped several thousand dollars on designer clothes and other goodies.
Much of the tab, Duan said, was picked up by an executive from a Western automobile firm, who was chasing the actress.
Duan, who runs a small advertising agency in Beijing, is part of a flood of Chinese tourists heading around the world. The country that was slow to react to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, contributing to a major crisis in the travel industry, is now ironically being billed as the industry’s savior in Asia and beyond.
Chinese now make up a large share of the tourist market in Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, where just a few years ago they were effectively banned from traveling.
Chinese vacationers cruise through Europe on package tours and go on safaris in South Africa. While they cannot officially travel to the United States as tourists, Chinese government officials and businessmen routinely detour to Las Vegas and lose so much money that several U.S. casinos have opened offices in China to attract more business.
The boom in overseas travel has been triggered by the growth in income among urban Chinese. Duan clears $1,500 a month. She lives in an apartment owned by her parents, who together don’t match her salary, and eats at home. “So I’ve got a lot of money to burn,” she said with a smile. She has already been to Europe on a package tour and Britain on a separate trip for more than a month.
Chinese made up just 1 percent of the Australian tourism market in 1995; that figure is expected to rise to 25 percent by the end of the decade. The Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii’s leading daily newspaper, recently reported that China, not Japan, was the state’s long-term hope to boost its sagging travel industry.
And the number of Chinese heading to Hong Kong is expected to skyrocket. Since early September, the 80 million Chinese who live in Guangdong province, Beijing and Shanghai have been able to apply for individual tourist visas in a move that will undoubtedly transform the tourism industry and perhaps the entire bustling, capitalist landscape of Hong Kong.