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Chinese New Year: Global celebration of culture, customs and customers

“Kung Hei Fat Choy!”

Across the globe over the period of February 16th to March 02nd, millions upon millions are seeing and saying these words with rapid follow-up of wishing one and all well in this, the Year of the Dog! Airports, art galleries, storefronts large and small, hotels near and far, restaurants, rail cars, car dealerships and candy stores, engagement points across the globe will be thoughtfully decorated in red, reaching out to the world’s Chinese population celebrating this most festive time of year.

As it began, world leaders were extending their personal greetings alongside the collective voice of the global community, watching in respectful awe as the largest human migration began. In 2018, an estimated 385 million Chinese are expected to travel to be with their loved ones, venturing out across the country, with an estimated 6.5 million travelling overseas. The scale of the movement is truly remarkable, masterful logistics managing to move massive numbers, with their masses of gifts all lovingly packed in red, across often vast distances, faster and smoother than one could ever imagine.


As part of the Chinese New Year, Golden Week is truly a time of breathtaking cultural beauty. While regional traditions and customs may vary, the age-old spirit of the occasion remains the same. Whether young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural, hip of homely, grandparents or grandbabies, this is a time of collective honoring of the past, celebration of the present, and hope for the future.

Over the past decade, the growing appeal of Chinese citizens celebrating the weeklong Lunar New Year period by travelling internationally has been growing in appreciation by destinations. With Chinese travelers becoming bolder in their desire to capture moments through high level of activity with both their cameras and their credit cards, the value of Chinese New Year has risen exponentially. As recently published in the South China Morning Post:

“According to a report published jointly by Ctrip, the mainland’s largest online travel agency, and China Tourism Academy, a research institution under the China National Tourism Administration, the number of outbound tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday is expected to rise by 5.7 per cent from 2017 to hit an all-time high of 6.5 million this year. Just a decade ago, Lunar New Year – a festival steeped in tradition – represented high season for businesses such as restaurants, shops, garment makers and food processors. Those days are now history.”

Shopping remains a significant activity among those celebrating the festive season, both overseas and at home. China National Tourism Administration reported that within China, the Lunar New Year of 2017, with its predicted 344 million domestic travelers, saw an estimated per capita spend of Yuan 3500 (USD$ 560). The tourism sector alone is believed to have topped Yuan 423 Billion (USD$ 67 Billion) nationwide in revenues. Estimates for 2018 are in the range of Yuan 476 Billion ($75 Billion).

Unsurprisingly, spend by overseas travelers is significantly higher. Throughout the year, Chinese travelers are already recognized as the top spending tourists, spending on average three times that of other international travelers.

According to the UNWTO, the Chinese outbound market remains a force of global tourism growth and inspiration, defining the pace and direction of tourism momentum with its “ten years of double-digit growth in spending, and after rising to the top of the ranking in 2012. Expenditure by Chinese travelers grew by 12% in 2016 to reach US$ 261 billion. The number of outbound travelers rose by 6% to reach 135 million in 2016.”

On the receiving end, global destinations are rolling out the red carpet to red envelope carrying travelers from China during the Lunar New Year. With an estimated 6.5 million making their way across the globe, especially destinations such as the US, UK, UAE as well as Asian regional tourism centers, Chinese New Year has come to represent big business, providing a valuable post western Christmas/New Year boost to tourism numbers, both arrivals and spend.


One global tourist capital that has seen the value of Chinese New Year millions of times over is London. With VisitBritain estimating almost 350,000 Chinese visitors from China expected in the UK, London’s Evening Standard newswire is spreading the word on behalf of London’s finest retail district.

“Bosses at the New West End Company, which represents traders in and around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, estimate that £32 million will be spent in the two weeks from Friday alone by Chinese tourists, and that the total in central London this year will easily pass the £400 million high set in 2017.”

Importantly, New West End Company echoes the greater yield of Chinese visitors who are reported to spend “an average of £1,972, which is more than three times the average for foreign tourists.”

Still, for all of the value that Chinese New Year brings to London, to any global city, the values of tourism must never be overlooked: hospitality, community, understanding, sharing, caring. Which is why keeping the spirit of celebration at the heart of city invitations to Chinese travelers looking to enjoy this festive, family time of year….and shop…is vital.

Championed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, London has been standing tall in 2018 as a leading destination recognizing and respecting the Chinese New Year holiday wishes of its visitors – their culture and tradition – during this special time. Central to the city’s spirit of hospitality has been the Mayor ensuring that the red carpet reached beyond purely retail to all corners of the city, with Chinese New Year events across London showcasing and celebrating Chinese culture, cuisine, style and spirit. Official celebrations were given rightfully grandness of proportion and profile when hosted in the city’s iconic Trafalgar Square. China’s XINHUANEWS excitedly reported to its tens of millions strong audience: “London host(ed) on Sunday the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, attracting tens of thousands of people heading to areas around Chinatown to share the joy. Festivities began with a two-hour long Grand Parade featuring the largest gathering of over 50 Chinese Dragon and Lion teams through the streets from Trafalgar Square, via West End before reaching its final destination Chinatown.”

The message to the world was clear: London celebrates the people of China across the city and across the world, Mayor Khan himself sharing:

“Chinese New Year is always a joyous time in the city’s cultural calendar. London is open to all people and all communities. That’s why I’m so proud of the Chinese New Year festivities here in the capital, which are the largest of their kind outside of China and entertain hundreds of thousands of Londoners from all communities, as well as visitors to our city.”

Red carpets alongside red envelopes.