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Chinese tourism to Africa is on the rise. From wildlife to visa waivers, find out what attracts Chinese travelers to Africa, and which destinations are most popular.
Chinese tourists are now starting to travel beyond traditional destinations to explore new regions. Supported by increasingly warm diplomatic ties with China, numerous African countries have liberalized their tourist visa policies for Chinese nationals while growing numbers of direct flights between China and the African continent have been launched over recent years.
Interviews with Chinese travelers
Have you ever been to Africa?
I’ve also been to Africa, on a business trip. I went to Lake Kariba, in Zambia. The landscape is very nice. The fruit there is very good.
I have been to Egypt and… how to call it… to Mauritius. The pyramids are really stunning, I saw the Sphinx. What else… the cruise on the Nile is also lots of fun! You have to go with a group, because Chinese people don’t really speak Arabic!
I have been to South Africa, Cape Town. I have friends there and I think it’s very beautiful. There are many wild animals; it’s very different from Beijing. I went to the wineries, and there are a lot of restaurants where you can taste a lot of different wines. I also went to the beach, because there were people surfing. It was very interesting.
Mauritius. I went there on my honeymoon. It was very good because you can admire the sea and really feel Africa’s wildlife. There are many wild animals! I went on a safari in Mauritius.
Where else would you like to go in Africa?
From what I’ve seen online, North Africa is also very interesting, and their culture is very different. The visa application process is so convenient.
Actually, I really want to go to Madagascar, because it’s very close to Mauritius.
I want to go to East Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, or South Africa. A lot of my friends like to travel there, so I follow a few small group chats on WeChat about traveling to Africa. I think Kenya is a stable place. It’s quite developed. I used to work for a company with an office in Nairobi, Kenya. My colleagues who worked there said it’s nice.
I want to go to Morocco. Because I still have not been to a place with such culture. I feel like in Morocco there might be fewer Chinese tourists.
African countries are becoming popular destinations for in-depth, luxury, personalized, and “novelty-seeking” tours. Chinese visitors to Africa are typically attracted by the continent’s diverse cultural heritage and exotic natural landscapes. Summer (during the animal migration periods) and the Chinese National Day holiday in October are the peak seasons for Chinese travel to Africa.
According to the China Tourism Academy, Africa welcomed nearly 800,000 Chinese tourists in 2017. The most popular countries include Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe.
Morocco and Tunisia achieved growth rates of around 150% in 2017, benefiting from visa-free policies that make them an easy add-on to a European trip. At the same time, Chinese arrivals to Egypt and Kenya grew at 80% and over 44% compared to the year before. As one of the more established tourism destinations in the continent, South Africa received over 97,000 Chinese travelers in 2017.
Ctrip data shows that the first seven month of 2018 saw a 70% increase in purchases of Africa-related tour products compared to 2017. While the perceived risks of infectious disease and poor public security have been matters for concern among Chinese travelers in the past, improved stability in recent years has coincided with the growth of Chinese tourism.
Morocco exempted Chinese passport holders from tourist visa requirements in 2016 as a means of offsetting flagging visitor numbers from traditional European markets. Following Morocco’s success, Tunisia followed suit in 2017. In 2018, Rwanda, Angola, Benin and Zimbabwe all started offering visas-upon-arrival to Chinese nationals.
According to Ctrip, 54% of Chinese travelers to Africa in the first half of 2018 were female. Chinese born in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s made up 64% of Chinese travelers to Africa, while “silver travelers” accounted for 29%. 59% of Chinese travelers to Africa joined packaged tours, with the rest choosing to travel independently or with a customized tour.
As experienced Chinese outbound travelers increasingly look for new experiences, the African continent’s vast diversity offers a wide range of destinations that can provide the most intrepid Chinese travelers with their next challenge.