Strong demand for China outbound MICE expected in 2024

Choice of popular destinations remain hampered by existing restrictions.

A Chinese traveller: looking for quality, comfort, interesting destinations, and unique experiences.
A Chinese traveller: looking for quality, comfort, interesting destinations, and unique experiences. Photo Credit: Adobe stock/anekoho

Demand for outbound MICE in China is growing strongly, to the point when levels could be favourably compared to the country’s outbound leisure market.

This is according to Edward Chen, general manager, PR and representation at marketing solutions provider Dragon Trail International, as he examined the latest trends in the Chinese travel industry and announced Dragon Trail’s latest Chinese Outbound Travel Trade Survey 2023. This featured responses from travel agents currently selling outbound travel for mainland Chinese travel agencies.

“The potential (for outbound MICE) is there - a number of large incentive groups have rescheduled departures for next year,” he said. “So, my prediction for 2024 is that you will see quite a market growing for [outbound Chinese] MICE.”

Sienna Parulis-Cook, director of marketing and communications at Dragon Trail International echoed these sentiments, and said there is a definite, growing interest in outbound Chinese MICE, particularly with groups travelling to countries within southeast Asia. She pointed to results from the survey which showed that offline events are seen as the most helpful way to receive information from B2B partners, such as overseas destinations and businesses.

“We can see that exhibitions and meetings really are something that the trade is very interested in right now,” she said. “When we asked what would be the most helpful way to work with an overseas destination or travel business, the most popular answer was meeting at an offline event, chosen by 61% of respondents.”

Chen added however that the destinations proving popular for outbound Chinese MICE groups will remain subject to existing controls - China currently only allows outbound group tours to 60 countries. This list accounts for less than half of the destinations with Approved Destination Status (ADS) agreements for outbound group travel before the pandemic.

The survey also pointed to how the full recovery of the outbound Chinese travel market still faces significant obstacles, with visa applications and high prices - especially those of airfares, seen as the two main challenges, according to the travel trade.

From the Chinese travel trade’s point of view, quality and comfort, interesting destinations, and unique experiences are the most important elements when their customers are booking travel.