Gong Yule was very surprised when her parents, both in their 50s, became overjoyed like children when seeing a lion on the Serengeti grasslands in Tanzania. The nine-day trip to Tanzania has left the family with such beautiful memories. Upon their arrival back home, her parents even watched the cartoon “Lion King” again.
“Africa means the ‘Lion King’ in childhood, the fascinating Mount Kilimanjaro in literature, the Great Migration narrated by Sir David Edinburgh, the flamingos, zebras, and leopards by fashion icons…..” Gong wrote in her travel notes. “For many people, Africa is so far away that it is an ideal place for a pilgrimage to nature.”
These are the star attractions, and Africa is now a favorite destination for Chinese tourists. According to outbound travel data by Chinese online travel agency, Ctrip, the number of Chinese tourists who traveled to Africa in the first seven months of the year increased by about 40% over the same period last year. People born after 1980 accounted for the most, reaching 30%. Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and other countries are the most popular.
Convenient visa policies are also an important factor in attracting Chinese tourists. According to the China Consular Service Network, there are currently 20 African countries and regions that implement visa-free or landing visa policies for Chinese tourists.
Qiu Feiming, a Ctrip travel leader who has been engaged in tourism for more than 10 years, said that July to October is the peak season for African tourism. Most Chinese tourists go to the central and eastern regions to watch wild animals and get close to nature. Winter is the peak season in North Africa, as tourists go there to enjoy the warm climate on the southern coast of the Mediterranean, the scenery of the Sahara Desert, and the exotic atmosphere of Arabia. Tropical islands such as Mauritius and Seychelles are niche choices for some honeymooners.
“Having visited top destinations in Europe, America, and Asia, many tourists began choosing more special and novel destinations,” said Hu Wenzhao, Ctrip’s Middle East regional manager, adding that the growth trend of Chinese tourists to Africa has been obvious in recent years.
Statistics from the local tourism department in Kenya showed that about 69,000 Chinese tourists visited the country in 2017, ranking fifth among Kenyan tourism source countries. In the same year, South Africa received 97,000 Chinese tourists, Xinhua reported.
Kenyan Tourism Minister Najib Bharara said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that he hopes to attract at least 100,000 Chinese tourists every year for the next year or two. The Kenya Chinese Tourist Association was also established in Nairobi in March this year to serve a growing group of Chinese tourists.
Khalid Fati, chief representative of the Moroccan National Tourism Office in China, also said that Morocco is embarking on improving hotels, transportation facilities, and the tourism carrying capacity to attract 500,000 tourists each year by 2020.