Mainland Chinese tourists have extended their lead as the largest spenders globally, says the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“With a 12 percent increase in spending, [mainland] China continued to lead international outbound tourism” in 2016, according to a UNWTO press release issued on Wednesday.
International tourism expenditure by mainland Chinese tourists grew to US$261 billion, according to the body’s data. It was unclear if the figure included spending on gaming.
The number of outbound mainland Chinese travellers rose 6 percent to 135 million in 2016. This growth further consolidated mainland China’s position as number one tourist source market in the world since 2012.
“The growth in outbound travel from China [in 2016] benefited many destinations in Asia and the Pacific, most notably Japan, [South] Korea and Thailand, but also long-haul destinations such as the United States and several in Europe,” UNWTO stated.
For many regulated casino jurisdictions in Asia, mainland Chinese tourists are much-sought for their perceived interest in gambling. In Macau – the only place in the People’s Republic of China where casino gambling is legal – mainland Chinese account for approximately two thirds of the total tourist arrivals.
Several Asian countries – including the Philippines, South Korea and Russia – are currently developing clusters of casino resorts. Some analysts have said that could be an attempt to recreate the sort of appeal that Las Vegas and Macau have for Chinese tourists as must-visit gambling and entertainment destinations.
A number of investment analysts have previously noted that China’s domestic anti-corruption drive of the past few years – that had a depressive effect on VIP play in Macau – may have also had the effect of displacing some high-stakes gambling to other jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific region.
As long ago as August 2015, China News Service, an official news agency, reported that the mainland’s Ministry of Public Security had started an operation called “Chain Break” – said to be aimed at disrupting foreign casinos’ access to money flows from China and those casinos’ links to individuals that scout for gamblers from China.
In October 2016, a number of executives and workers from Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd were detained in mainland China on suspicion of what the authorities termed “gambling-related crimes”. Crown Resorts – a firm that has been regarded by investment analysts as traditionally strong in attracting to its Australian properties high roller gamblers from the Asia Pacific region – announced in February that turnover from its VIP gambling operations in Australia had plunged 45.3 percent year-on-year in the six months ending December 31.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance