the china guide blog

Report: Choices of Travelers to China

Last updated on 2020-01-10
Report: Choices of Travelers to China

Following the footsteps of other travelers can be a convenient and reliable way to plan a trip. In this report, our third annual tourism report, we take a look at the choices of the thousands of travelers we served in the year of 2019 and offer some insights into the Western travelers' preferences when it comes to planning a visit to China. We hope this report will help people who are considering visiting China to craft their own itineraries while saving valuable time.

Popular months to travel to china

When planning a trip, the first question many people ask is when to go. Considering the mild weather and pleasant temperatures, spring (March, April, and May) and fall (September, October, and November) are usually the two most popular seasons to visit China. This is also well shown by our statistics on the distribution of travelers in 2019.

distribution of travelers in 2019 (by month)

Based on our data, 65% of our clients traveled to China in March, April, May, September, October or November. While Chinese summers are hot on most days, June, July, and August received a share of visitors similar to spring or fall. One reason is the summer break, which makes these months a good time for families to travel. Due to the cold weather and the holiday season, December, January, and February saw the lowest number of visitors, with only 7% of travelers choosing these three months to visit China.

Weather, public holidays and school breaks are some of the factors worth considering when planning a trip to China. Here you can learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of visiting the country in different months/seasons.

Top 10 China destinations

In 2019, 90% percent of our travelers included Beijing either as their sole destination or as one stop of their multi-city tours. This is understandable, as Beijing is generally considered the main gateway to China, both geographically and culturally, and is home to two of the best-known attractions that the country has to offer: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. To this figure, it largely contributed the many layover/transit passengers or business travelers who usually take one or two days off to do some sightseeing. Our statistics show that in 2019 travelers spent an average of 2.3 days exploring Beijing.

Top 10 Destinations for Foreign Travelers to China

Shanghai, another major city and the financial capital of the country, attracted 25% of our travelers. Like Beijing, Shanghai also attracted a large number of layover/transit passengers and business travelers. The average time our clients spent in Shanghai in 2019 was 2.1 days.

Xi'an, home to the world-famous Terracotta Army, ranked 3rd on our list of most popular destinations, with 23% of our travelers visiting in 2019. Travelers spent an average of 1.9 days touring Xi'an this year.

Following behind, Guilin/Yangshuo, Chengdu, Suzhou, Zhangjiajie, Hangzhou, Pingyao, and Luoyang complete our list of top 10 most popular destinations among travelers to China.

Aside from the top 10 destinations, Yunnan, Datong, and Huangshan also attracted a good number of travelers in 2019, while Tibet, which requires more time and a bigger budget because of its remote location and difficult access, did not receive many of our clients despite being frequently inquired by our travelers.

Top 10 multi-city tours and average trip length

Most people who visited two or more cities were typically on a vacation and our 2019 statistics show that their destinations were quite diverse, especially when the travelers wanted to add one or more cities on top of Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai.

Top 10 Multi-City China Tours and Average Trip Length

According to our numbers, different combinations of Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai made the top three popular itineraries. In particular, our Beijing-Xi'an-Shanghai tour, also known as the "Golden Triangle of China," was picked by 15.3% of the multi-city travelers, making it the top choice among our multi-city travelers to China in 2019. Our statistics show that this tour took our clients an average of 8.6 days to complete.

On top of the three most popular cities, Guilin/Yangshuo, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, Hangzhou, and Luoyang were also frequently picked by our multi-city travelers in 2019. Popular combinations included Beijing-Xi'an-Shanghai-Guilin/Yangshuo, Beijing-Xi’an-Shanghai-Chengdu, Beijing-Xi’an-Shanghai-Zhangjiajie, Beijing-Xi'an-Luoyang, Beijing-Shanghai-Hangzhou, and Beijing-Guilin/Yangshuo.

Aside from these popular routes, there were a lot of diverse itineraries, mostly different combinations of the cities listed above.

How long in advance did travelers book their trip to China?

According to our statistics, the longer a trip was, the longer in advance travelers booked their trips. This is understandable since longer tours require more planning and preparation time.

Based on our numbers, most people booked a 1 to 3-day tour an average of 28 days in advance, a 4 to 6-day tour an average of 53 days in advance, 7 to 10-day tour an average of 62 days in advance, and a tour of more than 10 days an average of 85 days in advance.

Booking a tour early means having more options when selecting accommodation, guides, cars, and other services, and can also help save money since prices in China tend to go up often.

You can read a digest of our report, by the South China Morning Post, in 2020’s top two emerging tourist destinations in China, and the places on most international visitors’ bucket lists.

This is our third annual report on the choices of travelers to China. If you’d like to learn more about China travel trends over time, you can find our 2018 report here and our 2017 report here

The China Guide is a Beijing-based travel agency that customizes private tours, educational student tours, and incentive trips across China. We have more than ten years of experience crafting tours for tens of thousands of travelers from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, and beyond. We promise all our tours have no hidden fees, no shopping stops, no touristy restaurants, just memorable experiences! Learn more about us or contact us to start planning your perfect China trip.

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