Given the rapid growth of China outbound market, research pertaining to the specificities of this market bears significance to destination marketers and academicians. The focus of this research is on the impact of cultural distance on outbound tourist destination choices with Chinese travelers as the case in point. Based on outbound tourism statistics of China over the 1995–2014 periods, this research has developed an inverted U‐curve model to account for the relationship between cultural distance and tourists' destination choice. Results show that the optimal cultural distance for Chinese outbound tourists' destination choice is 2.8757. Through evaluating the positions, potential destinations are located relative to the optimal cultural distance. The preference tourists place on potential destinations can be measured. This research bears valuable theoretical contributions and implications for destination marketing practices.