Chinese tourists spread the Spring Festival cheer - and there's more to come

Prices may be up around the region but China's growing band of happy holidaymakers have proven unperturbed over the Spring Festival period, heading overseas in record numbers.

And it's a trend that is set to continue, according to the country's official tourism bodies, as Chinese travelers become more adventurous on their breaks and, of course, have more money to spend.

China's National Holiday Tourism Office this week claimed there had been a rise of 60 percent in outbound tourists from Beijing alone, even though travel agents had upped prices to such popular destinations as Hong Kong by 15 percent on average and to the Thai island of Phuket by as much as 30 percent.

Regardless of any price hikes, however, those two destinations finished one-two in a poll jointly released by the China Tourism Academy and the Beijing Ctrip International Travel Service.

"For Hong Kong and Taiwan tours during the holiday, although we raised the rates by 50 percent on average, they were booked up long before Spring Festival," a refreshingly honest He Jing, from Ctrip, told the China Daily newspaper.

Meanwhile another survey - this time pieced together by the United States-based Travelzoo Asia Pacific ( ) internet media company - has this week reported that around 80 percent of Chinese polled planned to spend more money on leisure travel than they did last year.

Surprisingly, for a nation that has a reputation for focusing on shopping as its major holiday pastime, the survey found that 46 percent of respondents planned to try out "eco-tours."

China's National Tourism Administration is predicting a huge increase in the number of people heading overseas in the coming few years - up to 83 million by 2015 by which time their combined spending will spread their holiday money around the globe to the tune of some 2.3 trillion yuan (258 billion euros).

China's Spring Festival favorites:
1. Hong Kong
2. Phuket, Thailand
3. Singapore
4. Bangkok, Thailand
5. Bali, Indonesia
6. Seoul, South Korea
7. Cambodia
8. Maldives
9. Tokyo, Japan
10. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia