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Several surveys conducted by COTRI in the last few years have shown consistently that safety is the leading concern of Chinese outbound travelers in terms of destination choice.
Interviews with Chinese tourists:
How important is safety when choosing a destination?
Very, very important.
I take safety very seriously. I would like to visit a country where the government is stable and the society has not changed a lot.
Yes, I wouldn’t visit if the destination is not safe.
Yes, yes. The country I have been visiting is in Africa. Safety is my first consideration.
Which countries/places do you think are the safest?
Canada is the best, the most comfortable country. People are nice.
I think the countries I have been to in Europe are safe. I didn’t feel it was dangerous.
Australia and the UK.
What kinds of safety issues are you most concerned about?
I have a friend who has a store in a foreign country. He has experience of robbery.
I would be concerned about road safety, if the country is generally safe.
I like to have exciting experiences, but my family are concerned. I’d like to visit some lesser-known destinations, but it would dangerous. Probably experience robbery.
Where do you look for travel safety information?
I look for reviews online. I will also ask friends for advice.
Look it up on Baidu or Google.
Online and news.
What precautions do you take? Have you ever changed your travel plans because of safety concerns?
Avoid. If the destination is dangerous, don’t go. I was going to visit a city in Mexico, but I heard it’s dangerous there, so, I’m not going.
We were going to visit Russia. There were some problems. We didn’t go. There was a military coup, so we didn’t go. We went to other places instead.
Before traveling, I will think about what safety issues are there. You also need to be careful of attractions with mountains and rivers, and think about safety carefully after arriving, to avoid dangers such as windy and rainy conditions. You should cancel your travel plans rather than visiting.
In the past, Chinese travelers have been specifically targeted by pickpockets and other criminals for three reasons. They were known to carry large amounts of cash; they were often inexperienced in how to behave in an unsafe environment; and they were perceived as less likely to go to the police due to language and cultural barriers.
The first problem is now more or less solved, as mobile payments with Alipay or WeChat Pay are becoming available in more destinations, so there is no longer a need to carry large amounts of cash.
The other two problems have also become somewhat smaller, with the growing experience of travelers from China, but they are still relevant.
Safety is not only a question of being the victim of criminals. Racist slurs are also feared, as are natural disasters and civil unrest.
Destinations which in the past have been in the focus of media and even official warnings as being unsafe, including famous tourism hotspots like France or South Africa, are trying their best to convince potential Chinese visitors that the dangers are much smaller than sensational reporting makes them out to be. Several European countries have invited Chinese police to go on joint patrols with local police in tourist hotspots during the main travel season.
However, street violence as seen in places as diverse as Hong Kong SAR, Chile, Spain, or Lebanon do have a negative impact on the number of Chinese arrivals, which cannot be avoided by marketing activities alone.
Chinese outbound travelers are much more likely than Western travelers to cancel or postpone the whole trip if there is a real or perceived threat, rather than just taking extra precautions in the destination.
Safety information provided by governments and tourism organizations that advise not to walk alone after dark in specific parts of a city or not to wear jewelry in public are therefore not very efficient for the Chinese market.
Destinations considered as very safe, like Canada or Switzerland, are well advised to continue to highlight this information in their communications with the Chinese market.
Chinese travelers still have many destinations on their bucket lists, so if one seems unsafe, they are likely to cancel or postpone their trip and go somewhere else, rather than trying to be more careful or avoiding some parts of that destination.