SHANGHAI • As millions of China tourists head for vacations during the Golden Week holiday that starts today, the hottest destinations aren't New York, Tokyo or Paris .
Instead, a cooling economy means holidaymakers are staying closer to home. Chinese travellers - who spent US$261 billion (S$352 billion) last year - are increasingly opting for "staycations".
The Chinese made 2.54 billion trips in China in the first half of this year, up 13.5 per cent from last year, far outstripping an outbound market that has slowed.
Beijing housewife Tian Haiqin, 50, said cost, jet lag and language barriers were the main reasons for staying home. She plans to spend around 20,000 yuan (S$4,100) a week for her and her son to stay in a resort in the eastern city of Hangzhou, known for its scenic lakes and hills.
And she is not alone. Around 710 million Chinese will make trips in the country during the holiday, according to estimates from travel agent Ctrip.com International. Some six million will travel abroad.
Asia analyst Tong Yiling from BMI Research said the domestic tourism sector had seen a "rapid improvement" in competitiveness, with improved transport links and big investment in tourist sites.
Better marketing of local travel destinations and the impact of tighter capital controls to deter Chinese from taking money abroad were also having an effect.
Data has shown China's outbound tourism spending is still growing, but growth is slowing.
A report from CLSA in July estimated that Chinese tourists would spend US$429 billion overseas by 2021. But outbound travel was up just over 5 per cent last year, down from close to 30 per cent growth in 2010, according to BMI Research.
"Compared with outbound travel, domestic travel has been greater in size and growth rate for the first several months of this year," said Ctrip.
Outbound tourism is in a "new normal of steady, slow-to-moderate growth", with tighter shopping budgets "curbing" the rise in spending overseas, it said.
But some still wish to escape the holiday rush that can see huge crowds at local tourism hot spots.
Mr Yu Yongyi, 22, has booked a trip to Vietnam. "Most of the time I'll go abroad for holidays because the price of flights is getting lower," said the head of marketing for start-up Eniutrip.