China outbound travel climbs in 2015, a 12% increase from 2014: Officials

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese travellers took around 120 million outbound trips in 2015, according to government estimates, a 12 per cent increase from the year before, as the country's growing middle class spends more on tourism.

The figure released on social media on Monday (Jan 19) by the official China Tourism Academy includes journeys to Taiwan and China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as foreign countries.

No breakdown was given, but in previous years the majority of trips - which include business and other kinds of travel - have been to those neighbouring territories.

The domestic tourism industry pulled in more than 4 trillion yuan (S$872 billion) last year, the CTA said in an annual report, predicting the amount would increase by 12 per cent in 2016.

Chinese tourist numbers have soared over the past two decades as the economy has boomed to become the world's second largest and its yuan currency steadily strengthened, making overseas holidays more affordable.

In recent months China's growth has slowed and the yuan has weakened, but a tourism professor at Beijing Union University said the industry had not yet been hit by the changes.

The yuan's falling value "will not dampen the mainland's outbound tourism business in the short term", Prof Zhang Lingyun told the China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.

"However, when it comes to the long term, it's a different story."