China's outbound tourism market is undergoing a consumption upgrade, with Chinese tourists choosing smaller, less well-known sightseeing destinations for their vacations, according to a new report released by global payment giant Mastercard and online travel service provider Ctrip.
"We could see the tourism consumption upgrade trend clearly during our study of various data points," said Peng Liang, chief researcher of the joint tourism big data lab of China Tourism Academy and Ctrip.
During the first nine months of 2018, the top five Japanese destinations in terms of growth in Chinese tourists' spending on travel products were Aomori, Kamakura, Niseko, Takayama and Toyama, according to the report.
Croatia ranked No 2 in the top 20 countries that saw rapid growth in Chinese tourists' spending so far this year.
The country has become better known among Chinese people thanks to the outstanding performance of its national football team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the report said. It is also a prominent filming location for HBO's fantasy epic Game of Thrones.
Tourists' preferred holiday destinations continue to diversify, recreation and entertainment activities are also becoming an increasingly crucial part of overseas travel.
Data collected anonymously by Mastercard show that for many Chinese travelers, their experiences while traveling abroad, such as wine tasting in Greece or exploring caves in Slovenia, are more important than shopping.
From January to September, the number of Chinese outbound travelers booking local tour guide services on Ctrip increased 67 percent year-on-year. Nearly one-fourth of the tour guide services booked were for exploring local cuisine.
Chinese tourists took the lead in terms of average expense per person during their travels abroad, followed by travelers from the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and the United States, according to the report.
People born in the 1990s and 2000s have become a major driver for Chinese outbound tourism. The average spending on overseas travel per person for those born in the 2000s was almost 6,000 yuan ($866) during the first nine months of this year, about 400 yuan higher than those born in the 1980s.
Females spent an average of 6,254 yuan per person when booking overseas travel in the same period - 14 percent higher than males' spending.
An increasing number of women are choosing self-guided travel. From January to September, 58 percent of all self-guided Chinese travelers abroad were female, rising from 46 percent during the same period of 2016.
In addition, the report writers saw 28 percent compound annual growth in spending on parent-child tours per person.
Conforming to these trends, Mastercard announced on Tuesday it will upgrade the benefits and rewards available to holders of World Mastercard next year.