Travel Cheaply w/ "Surging" Yuan

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/29/2007 04:38:00 PM
Here's a travel article from our favorite Party publication the China Daily that will either elicit your interest or have you scratching your head in disbelief. This article is yet another entry in the vast genre of travel stories that go like this: Ever since the currency of country X became that much stronger, citizens of X have gone shopping in country Y and other blighted places suffering from devaluation. (You can read Canada-US and UK-US versions, for instance.) The notable twist to this story is that China is country X and country Y is merely the city of Hong Kong. While the renminbi AKA the yuan has strengthened by about 10% against the US dollar (and consequently the USD pegged Hong Kong dollar), this story is a bit too self-serving IMHO for the Party line that the yuan is not being manipulated. Nevertheless, it's worth noting the large number of tourists emanating from the Middle Kingdom. Truly, a (camera and camcorder-toting) force to be reckoned with:
Shopping in Hong Kong or sunbathing in Thailand are proving more attractive than a domestic trip during the National Day holiday for mainland tourists - thanks to the rising yuan.

As Fang Fang, who plans to go to the special administrative region, said: "It costs the same to go to Yunnan or Hong Kong. Why not go overseas then?"

The price is around 3,000 yuan ($400) each for the overseas trip and the 23-year-old bank employee said the stronger yuan is the major reason for her travel plan.

"I want to buy a watch and cosmetics there. I heard from my friends that I can save at least several hundred yuan," she said.

The value of the yuan vis a vis the US dollar has surged nearly 10 per cent since July 2005, when the central bank unpegged the currency from the greenback and linked it to a basket of currencies.

Most travel agencies have said the number of tourists applying for overseas trips during the National Day holiday is higher than the same period last year.

"We have seen an increase of 10-15 percent in outbound tourism," said Lin Kang, deputy general manager of the outbound travel department of China International Travel Service Head Office.

Tour products to Europe, South Korea, Japan and some islands such as Maldives and Saipan, are also popular, he said.

"The rising renminbi has generated great interest in shopping overseas," he said., an online travel service company, agreed, saying it is especially evident in Hong Kong tours.

It said the number of people applying for Hong Kong trips during the holidays has almost doubled from the same period last year.

"Though outbound tour packages cost the same as last year, shopping cheap is a big attraction," said Wu Jiaoli, an analyst with the company.

"Most mainland tourists go to Hong Kong for shopping. The rising renminbi obviously means they pay less," she said.

Outbound tourism has shown double-digit growth for five consecutive years.

Last year, 34 million Chinese traveled overseas, making them the sixth largest group of outbound tourists worldwide.

In the first half, outbound tourism grew 14 percent year on year, the China National Tourism Administration said earlier this month. It estimated that 37.4 million Chinese will travel overseas this year.

The UN World Tourism Organization has forecast China will become the fourth largest source of outbound tourists by around 2015.