The number of border crossings from mainland China increased in the last quarter of 2018 by seven per cent, but this growth only benefited the destinations of greater China, according to new research.
The rest of the world welcomed saw a fall in Chinese visitor numbers in the final quarter of last year for the first time.
New quarterly statistics, published by Cotri Analytics of the German-based China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, show that 56 per cent, or 22.5 million, of the 40 million outbound trips from mainland China in the last quarter of 2018 ended in Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.
Only 44 per cent, or 17.5 million, brought Chinese travellers to destinations further afield.
In 2017 the ratio had been a 50:50 split between greater China trips and trips to the rest of the world.
In previous years the balance used to be in favour of longer trips.
Last year, the final quarter included the National Golden Week, one of the main travel seasons in China.
The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau managed to add five million arrivals from China in the last quarter over the last two years.
The rest of the world lost one million arrivals in the same period.
Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of Cotri, said: “The Chinese are still travelling abroad in growing numbers, but the lower end of the market has become a little bit more cautious, choosing rather destinations close by, including Hong Kong and Macau, whereas the upper end of the market is looking for more authentic experiences in new destinations.
“Simplified visa regulations, increased numbers of direct air connections and the new road and rail links between Hong Kong, Macau and China support this new travel pattern.
“Long-distance destinations will have to increase their efforts to attract Chinese visitors.”