During the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States, Cooperation Forum held earlier in July, China and Arab nations have agreed to establish a "Sino-Arab future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development." Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates have drawn Chinese tourists through their visa-free policies.
Official data shows that since Morocco rolled out the free-visa policy in 2016 the number of Chinese tourists to the country surged from less than 20,000 in 2015 to 118,000 in 2017. In a similar way, Chinese visitors to Tunisia more than doubled in 2017, after the policy was implemented earlier that year.
During the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, CTrip CEO Jane Sun predicted that the number of Chinese passport holders would grow to 240 million by the year 2020. At the moment there are 120 million Chinese citizens who hold a passport, only 8.7 percent of the population. Chinese citizens are travelling now more than ever before, and if these predictions are correct, the potential market of Chinese outbound tourists can double in the coming years.
Some Arab countries have taken measures to promote tourism from abroad. Egypt, for instance, launched an electronic travel authorization system in order to simplify the process of obtaining a visa. Citizens of eligible countries can easily get their electronic visa through the Egypt e-Visa online application. Chinese citizens can travel to Egypt without a visa provided that they hold a return ticket, an upper-class hotel reservation and the equivalent of USD 2000. Not having to obtain a visa to travel makes it easier for Chinese tourists to head to Egypt or other Arab countries.
Chinese Tourists are an important market
Chinese tourists are an important market, and not just for Arab countries. Malaysia is expected to receive an influx of traffic from China in the second half of the year due to holidays from Chinese tourists. MIDF research shows that Chinese tourists represent a large number of international visitors in the country. One of the factors that have an influence on this is the relaxation of visa permits to Malaysia. Chinese nationals can obtain an electronic visa to travel to Malaysia by completing an online form within minutes.
The power of the Chinese passport is increasing. The Henley Passport Index shows that the Chinese passport rose 10 places, up to the 75th place, just this year. The strength of the passport stems from the rising number of visa-exempt agreements between China and other countries. Countries should be preparing themselves to welcome more Chinese tourists.
In 2017, Chinese tourists cross China's borders 131 million times, according to the U.N.'s World Tourism Organization. They also spent 258 billion USD in total during those trips. almost double the total of American travellers. Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the organization, said that "Chinese tourists are the most powerful single source of change in the tourism industry." Businesses should consider adapting to the Chinese tourism. Some hotels, restaurants and retailers are adapting by enabling the use of popular Chinese mobile payment apps and employing Chinese speakers as service providers.