[BEIJING] Chinese tourists spent a record US$164.8 billion overseas last year - a 28 per cent increase over 2013 - as disposable income rose and more people ventured abroad.
Travellers from China spent US$113.6 billion more overseas than foreign tourists spent while visiting the country, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. That so-called tourism deficit was almost 50 per cent larger than the previous year's figure.
The latest numbers reflect how rising wealth in China has flowed overseas in the years since 2002, when China eased many restrictions on foreign travel. Disposable income rose a nominal 10.1 per cent last year, outpacing the economy's nominal 8.2 per cent expansion.
"More and more ordinary Chinese are putting tourism expenses on their list of priorities," Ge Lei, a marketing manager in China CYTS Tours Holding Co, said before the data was released.
The number of Chinese travelling abroad reached 109 million, topping 100 million for the first time, while inbound tourism trips fell almost one per cent to 128 million, the China National Tourism Administration said.
Ctrip.com International Ltd, the country's largest online travel agency, forecasts 15 per cent to 20 per cent growth of outbound tourism this year.