Gazing into the future of the travel sector in China

ITB China News spoke with Aaron Goldring, Senior Economist, Tourism Economics, in an exclusive interview about the future of the travel sector as a whole in China.

He began by discussing Chinese outbound travel, which restarted in 2023. Given the attractiveness and size of this market, different stakeholders in the travel industry are keeping a close eye on the progress being made. He noted that the initial stages did witness a notable rebound in outbound travel, but it was limited to an extent by capacity constraints – both in terms of aviation capacity and delays in the processing of travel documentation. He was, however, optimistic: “Outbound travel gathered pace in the second half of 2023 and we anticipate that the number of outbound trips taken by Chinese travellers in 2024 will almost double relative to 2023.”

The Senior Economist outlined that if China adresses capacity concerns, its recovery pattern should follow that of its neighbours: “Outbound travel from both Thailand and Singapore is expected to recover fully in 2024, with outbound travel from Vietnam to finish just short. All three countries opened earlier than China and swiftly addressed their capacity constraints to allow for a quick recovery to both inbound and outbound travel. This suggests once capacity is restored in China, a full recovery of outbound travel will follow,” he said.

With regard to inbound travel, Mr Goldring highlighted a couple of initiatives that China is taking, the first being the removal of several barriers to entry for key source markets in Asia and Europe. Mutual visa waiver programmes in place with Singapore and Thailand allow easy access for citizens from both countries to visit China. China has also recently relaxed its visa policy for six more European countries (Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg) to enter visa-free for up to 15 days from March. This follows a similar relaxed visa policy for France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain in December last year. China is also investing heavily in updating its tourism infrastructure including its electronic payment systems, optimising payment services for international visitors. Continued visa-policy changes and increased tourism marketing can make China more attractive for tourism in the short term and accelerate this recovery. As a result of these policy changes and infrastructure investments, Tourism Economics expects longer haul markets to contribute more to growth in Chinese inbound travel from 2026 to 2031 than they have in the decade pre-pandemic.




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