(Reuters) - German travel group TUI AG has become the first European tour operator to win a license to organise international travel for vacationers from China, who are fast becoming one of the world’s biggest spenders on holidays.
TUI owns 75 percent of joint venture TUI China Travel together with China Travel Service. The company was set up in 2003 and has since then mostly focused on bringing tourists into China.
The new licence will enable it to tap into the fast-growing market for Chinese tourists. The U.N. World Tourism Organisation estimates the Chinese to have quadrupled spending on international tourism since 2000, making them the third-largest spenders on international tourism in the world.
“Recognising the market’s growth potential, we have invested in China and positioned the TUI brand early on. Our strategy has clearly been validated by the granting of the outbound licence,” TUI AG Chief Executive Michael Frenzel said in a statement last week.
A spokesman for TUI, which controls Europe’s largest tour operator TUI Travel said the next step would be to decide on what products to offer Chinese tourists.
The licence was awarded by the China National Tourism Authority. TUI said it was only one of three foreign companies to be granted a licence.
European tour operators such as TUI and rival Thomas Cook (TCG.L) are looking to fast-growing BRIC countries for expansion and have recently focused on bringing Russian tourists to Europe’s beach resorts.
TUI also owns a major stake in shipping group Hapag-Lloyd, but is planning to sell this to focus on its tourism activities.