In just over two decades China has grown from small fry in travel terms to the world’s biggest outbound market, leapfrogging and outpacing the United States.
“May you live in interesting times!” is an ancient Chinese curse, a bit like a reverse compliment. Now it should be “May you be visited by many Chillennials!” It’s a double-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse.
Chinese millennials, as a segment or cohort, have more spending power than their American or European counter-parts; partly due to their sheer numbers, but also because the Chinese economic miracle has thrust all of them into the middle class.
And one of the favourite pursuits of the Chinese millennial is to travel the world. Perhaps it’s a rebound from generations of isolation and lack of personal freedom; now youth from the ‘Middle Kingdom’ are spreading their wings, and seeing the world, because they can. And they can afford it.
It’s not small potatoes. The market for outbound tourism from China is expected to top US$ 500 billion this year. And it’s not just California or the fleshpots of Australasia that the ‘Chillennials’ are flocking to; historic European cities, Inca and Aztec temples, Egyptian antiquities, and the jungles of South America and Africa are all on their itineraries.
Which is a great source of revenue for the host countries, but it’s not all positive. Hordes of selfie-obsessed tweeple, instagramming the heck out of every statue, monument or landmark can grate on your nerves, to say nothing of congestion, foot-traffic damage and culture erosion.
Some tourist hotspots, particularly in ‘old’ Europe, want to ban these young adults, or at least impose stricter visa requirements, even quotas. Others say “Bring it on. We accept Yuan!”
Perhaps the Chillennial boom will save us all!