Chinese tourists become world’s top spenders amid international travel recovery

Chinese tourists become world’s top spenders amid international travel recovery

The world’s tourism sector reached an estimated $3.3 trillion, equivalent to 3% of global GDP in 2023, according to United Nations figures for the year, and China is back in the number one spot for international spending.

Spending

Chinese travellers spent $196.5 billion abroad in 2023, that’s over $45 billion ahead of their closest rivals from the United States, who spent $150 billion during the year. The rest of the top five spots were taken by Germany, which spent $112 billion, tourists from the United Kingdom, who spent $110 billion, and France, with $49 billion.

Canada came in at number six for 2023, followed by Italy, India, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea. In the five years since coming 14th in 2019, India climbed six rungs on the ladder to take 8th place. Italy also climbed by three spots to 2023’s 7th position. 

Chinese tourists become world’s top spenders amid international travel recovery
© UN Tourism 

Destinations

But where did all those tourists go? France, is the answer for many – the land of liberté, égalité and fraternité attracting 100 million international arrivals in 2023 and once again proving its mettle as the world’s favourite destination.

Spain, in the number two spot, welcomed 85 million, followed by the US (66 million), Italy (57 million) and Türkiye (55 million). Those top five beat Mexico, the UK (up from 10th spot in 2022 to 7th in 2023), Germany, Greece and Austria, which complete the top ten. Greece entered the top 10 in 9th position, up from 2022’s 13th spot.

Interestingly Spain in 2nd place and Italy in 4th are among countries grappling with regulations to reduce the negative impacts of overtourism.

Revenues

Revenues from international tourism present a slightly different picture. The United States took 1st place and $176 billion in 2023, followed by Spain again ($92 billion), the United Kingdom ($74 billion), France ($69 billion) and Italy ($56 billion). 

Making up the rest of the best for international tourism receipts in 2023 are: the United Arab Emirates (6th), Türkiye (7th), Australia (8th), Canada (9th), and Japan (10th) – another country seeing a huge surge in tourist arrivals and which has introduced a number of measures to mitigate overtourism.

© UN Tourism 

Macao came 13th in the revenue ranking, as China continues to push forward with a number of international visa waiver agreements to boost its travel and tourism sector. Similarly, the UAE’s 6th spot (up from 13th) and Qatar’s huge 14 place jump (from 51st to 37th) reflect the Arabian Peninsula nations’ strategy to veer away from fossil-fuel driven economies.

Global recovery

Worldwide, international tourist arrival numbers recovered to reach 89% of 2019 levels in 2023 and made almost a complete recovery in Q1 2024 at 97%. UN Tourism is expecting not just full recovery in 2024 but 2% growth in international tourist arrivals, thanks to a range of factors from continued demand to improved aviation provision, and the bounce-back of China and other major Asian markets. 

The world’s tourism sector reached an estimated $3.3 trillion, equivalent to 3% of global GDP in 2023, according to United Nations figures for the year, and China is back in the number one spot for international spending. Spending Chinese travellers spent $196.5 billion abroad in 2023, that’s over $45 billion ahead of their closest rivals…

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