Here’s Jing Travel’s weekly guide to stories that give insight into Chinese travel trends and how they affect the industry’s main players.

It was another record-setting Lunar New Year for Chinese travelers. Some outbound travelers crisscrossed the globe in search of new experiences, although most of them stuck to short-haul destinations. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty who took long-haul vacations to Europe and North America, and the U.S. and Canada both saw higher-than-expected arrivals during the period.

The year is off to a great start for tourism, but questions about how the slowing Chinese and global economy will adversely affect the industry during the rest of 2019 linger. But for now, destinations and industry players will celebrate another successful holiday season.

Chinese New Year Sales Growth Slows

Spending reached a record $149 billion (RMB 1.01 trillion) during the Lunar New Year holiday this year, but that growth only equaled a 8.5 percent increase, the slowest growth rate since 2011. Analysts are sending out warning signals of sluggish economic growth ahead, while others have noted that online shopping continues to surge.

China Cancels New Zealand Tourism Partnership

2019 was supposed to be a China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, but China has decided to cancel the campaign after it refused to send an official to open the partnership. There was no official reason given for the cancellation, but many are speculating that it has to do with New Zealand taking a neutral stance on China’s diplomatic tiffs with Australia, Canada, and the U.S. There is also a possibility that China is retaliating for New Zealand’s decision to ban the Chinese telecom company Huawei from 5G infrastructure development. It also comes after an Air New Zealand flight was forced to return to Auckland last weekend because the company had a reference to Taiwan in its paperwork.

Mobile Payments Grow in Popularity with Older Travelers

Mobile payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay have grown in popularity among older travelers, according to data collected during the Chinese New Year travel period. As the penetration rate among younger generations is already high, it makes sense that growth could come from generations which have been late to adopt online payment technology.

UnionPay Makes Gains for CNY Travel Spending

While the major mobile payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay continue to dominate in China, UnionPay QR code payment is starting to gain ground with consumers. The payment platform is now accepted at more than 70 percent of the top hotel brands as well as five major car rental companies. UnionPay now boasts more than 26 million merchants outside of China, an increase of 30 percent from last year.

2018 Was Another Record Year for Outbound Tourism

Outbound tourism increased 14.7 percent year-on-year in 2018 to 149.72 million total trips, according to data from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Domestic trips increased 10.8 percent from the previous year as well. Additionally, the country saw the use of e-boarding passes increase to 225 million, with 40 domestic airports supporting the digital advancement as of the end of 2018.