The Emerging Chinese FIT Market

Chinese FIT enjoy a scenic helicopter flight off Green Island

Chinese FIT enjoy a scenic helicopter flight off Green Island

Traditionally, when the Chinese traveler comes to one’s mind, we tend to think of those large groups of 20-30 mid to late age tourists, diligently following their tour guide from attraction to attraction, on the bus, off the bus, marching the streets while squawking loudly in mandarin, Cantonese or their preferred dialect. These tour groups generally speak little to no English, are controlled by ‘duty free shopping’ (hence the name ‘gou wu tuan’ ‘shopping tour group’) and rarely interact with local Australians, let alone really step out of their comfort zone. In fact, it is not widely known that a lot of the time they are purposefully kept away from anywhere they can spend their money, as agents ¬†book the most isolated hotels available.

However, there is a new, emerging wave of independent, young adventurers Chinese on the horizon, and these come with very different needs and attitudes.

Since China opened up to the west in 1980, these new generation Chinese have been exposed to Western culture, through study or travel overseas, learning English at school, social media and have started adapting new western habits.

Tea is out, coffee is in. Forget about Tai Chi, yoga is the new trend. Shopping tours, too, are now being increasingly scrapped in favor of a more bold, independent approach to travel.

With a myriad of available information at their fingertips, a new found confidence in English and evermore influenced by TV shows and travel programs featuring activities which the ‘traditional’ Chinese traveler would never consider, this new generation is ready to step outside the previous confined boundaries of the packaged group itinerary.

Popular blog sharing sites such as ‘qiong you wang’ (think Chinese trip advisor) and ‘mifeng’ are enabling a platform to share travelers information like never before. Also, with a ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ attitude, everyone wants to jump aboard new travel trends.

Travel agencies have had to respond quickly to this demand, by setting up their own ‘FIT’ (Free Independent Traveler) departments and designing new flexible itineraries for fear of missing out. Some have even reported going from 80/20 group/ FIT to half of their market becoming FIT within a 2 year period!

These FIT customers will tend to travel in smaller groups of 2-10 people, have a better level of English, be well – learned and usually have done a fair amount of research before choosing their tour.

Considering that we have just signed an agreement to invite 5000 Chinese working holiday visas per year, and the massive influx of Chinese students entering Australia and the many settling here, the future looks extremely bright for the FIT Chinese market. Jump aboard!!!


Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.