After Three Years, Chinese Tourists Ready to Hit the Road Again
For the first time in three years, China has resumed outbound group tours to selected countries, sparking a surge in demand for overseas travel. The government had banned domestic tour operators from selling packages to go to other countries in January 2020, after the pandemic first started.
The move comes after the country’s top health authority last December removed all stringent border control restrictions, including quarantines, for inbound travelers to the Chinese mainland starting Jan. 8.
While that decision prompted a surge in incoming travelers, China Monday restarted overseas group tours to 20 countries, including Thailand, the Maldives, Russia, and New Zealand. Quarantine-free travel to Hong Kong, a popular destination for mainland travelers, also resumed.
Group tour services offered by major travel agencies including Trip.com and Spring Tour saw a spike in demand as more Chinese tourists prepared to head abroad for holidays, according to domestic media reports.
Searches for overseas travel destinations increased exponentially over the past few weeks, prompting travel agencies to roll out new customized package tours targeting popular destinations.
The road to recovery is reflected in the increased demand for overseas long-distance travel, data from Trip.com shows. A package tour from Shanghai to New Zealand, with an average price of 27,999 yuan ($4,129) per person, sold out immediately after it went on sale, while tickets for an extra-long 121-day world cruise ship tour are already fully booked, a representative from travel agency U-tour told local media.
Industry experts, however, point out that getting back to normal will still take time.
“Although flight ticket prices to Thailand have started to drop, they are still 20% to 30% more expensive compared with pre-pandemic levels,” P. Wang, a tourist guide in Thailand who has been working in the industry for more than a decade, told Sixth Tone.
According to Wang, it will also take time for overseas tourism services providers to rebuild their businesses to properly receive the influx of Chinese travelers. “Lots of hotels and restaurants targeting Chinese travelers were shut over the past three years, leaving travelers now with fewer choices when they get here,” he said, speaking from his own experience after closing his home rental business due to the lack of customers in 2021.
“Chinese group tours to Thailand may return to about 40% of the pre-pandemic level by March. Full recovery may arrive in the second half of this year,” he predicted.
(Header image: VCG)