China is set to see its tourism deficit exceed 100 billion U.S. dollars this year as Chinese traveling overseas spend much more than foreign visitors back home, according to a report by the China Tourism Academy (CTA).
"A tourism deficit greater than 100 billion U.S. dollars is a sure thing this year," said CTA president Dai Bin, citing explosive growth in outbound tourists and a lackluster inbound tourism market.
About 116 million Chinese are expected to travel and spend 155 billion U.S. dollars overseas in 2014, up 20 percent from a year ago, Dai said.
China has become the world's main source of international tourists in recent years, as a richer middle class seeks more exotic experiences overseas, said the report, released on Monday.
The expected net tourism deficit reflects the increasing purchasing power of Chinese abroad, as they tend to open their wallets generously in European cities such as Paris and London to buy luxury goods from branded bags to expensive wrist watches.
Last year, per capita spending by Chinese traveling overseas was almost three times the amount foreign visitors spent in China, according to Fan Zhiyong, an associate professor under the School of Economics with the Renmin University.
Chinese tourists made a total of 98.2 million trips overseas last year, climbing 18 percent from a year earlier, according to the China National Tourism Administration.
For the first half of 2014, the administration estimated that Chinese spent more than 70 billion U.S. dollars on their overseas trips during the period, up 20.7 percent year on year.
As Chinese spend more time and money overseas, competition to attract them is intensifying among foreign countries.
Currently, Chinese can travel to 151 countries for tourism purposes, with Senegal becoming the latest destination under a memorandum of understanding between the two countries this month.
India is also preparing to launch a tourism promotion campaign in Chinese media in the coming months, while introducing audio recordings in Mandarin at popular Indian monuments.
China first recorded a tourism deficit in 2008, when the global financial crisis greatly discouraged foreign spending in the country while a stronger yuan encouraged tourist outflow.
Zhao Xijun, vice dean of the School of Finance and Economics under Renmin University, said the tourism deficit could help internationalize the Chinese renminbi currency as the yuan is converted and used internationally by a growing number of tourists.
For example, the most-visited overseas regions for Chinese, such as Southeast Asian nations, Australia and the Republic of Korea, as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, have seen renminbi settlement business boom in recent years.
The internationalization of the yuan and Chinese cross-border consumption support each other, Zhao said,
The tourism deficit will offset a huge part of the trade surplus China accumulated through its merchandise trade.
The country posted a total trade surplus of 200 billion U.S. dollars in the first eight months of 2014, an increase of 30.3 percent from a year earlier, according to customs data.