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China Reopening Inbound & Outbound Travel, is the Dawn of Recovery Coming?

In the past three years, due to unfavorable factors such as intensified changes in the world and the spread of COVID-19, China's inbound and outbound tourism has experienced unprecedented difficulties and challenges. As the overall risk of the pandemic tends to ease, various optimization measures have taken effect. Will the industry finally see the dawn of recovery?

The Comprehensive Team of the State Council of China Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Novel Coronavirus Infection issued the "Overall Plan on Implementing Class B and B Control for Novel Coronavirus Infection" (hereinafter referred to as the "Overall Plan").

The "Overall Plan" proposes that from January 8, 2023, "Class B and B Control" will be implemented for COVID-19 infections, optimizing the management of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges. Those who come to China will undergo a nucleic acid test 48 hours before their departure, and those with a negative result can come to China. Nucleic acid testing and centralized isolation for all staff after entry will be canceled. According to the international epidemic situation and various service guarantee capabilities, the outbound travel of Chinese citizens will be resumed in an orderly manner.

According to Ctrip data, from December 7 to 18, air ticket bookings destined for Hainan increased by 68% month-on-month, hotel bookings increased by 63%, and car rental bookings increased by 88%.

After the lifting of cross-border restrictions, Macao, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, and many other popular outbound travel destinations increased significantly in search interest during the 2023 Spring Festival. The search volume for products related to outbound and group tours during the Spring Festival has soared 6 times.

According to Fliggy’s data, travel bookings for New Year’s Day in 2023 will peak in the penultimate week of December 2022. Searches for products related to “New Year’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” have increased by more than 6 times month-on-month, and air ticket bookings for New Year’s Day trips have increased by more than 3 times month-on-month. Bookings for travel-related products in warm-climate destinations such as Hainan, Yunnan, and Guangdong doubled.

After the impact of COVID-19, what changes have occurred in China's inbound and outbound tourism market? What is the future development trend of the industry?

The newly released "Annual Report on China's Outbound Tourism Development (2022-2023)" and "Annual Report on China's Inbound Tourism Development (2022-2023)" give the answers.

The "Annual Report on China's Outbound Tourism Development (2022-2023)" systematically analyzes the recovery of China's outbound tourism market, tourist preferences, and innovative behaviors of tourism companies. According to the report, since the outbreak of COVID-19, China's outbound tourism industry has suffered huge losses, and the number of tourists has decreased by more than 400 million.

Dr. Yang Jinsong, director of the International Institute of China Tourism Academy (Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan Research Institute), recently participated in the 2022 China Tourism Group Development Forum and said that after three years, the confidence of Chinese tourists is recovering. The difference from 2021 is that long-distance destinations have begun to enter the field of vision of the respondents, and even become a priority option. Among the respondents, most of the destinations for outbound travel are Europe, America, East Asia, China’s Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and Europe and the United States have jumped to the top of the list of outbound travel destinations, an increase of 26% over 2021.

There is also inbound tourism ushering in the dawn of recovery. The "Annual Report on China's Inbound Tourism Development (2022-2023)" combined with the background of the accelerated recovery of global international tourism, comprehensively evaluated the operation of China's inbound tourism market, the digital transformation of the tourism industry, and the international tourism influence of cities.

The report shows that with the gradual opening of the window for inbound tourism recovery and policy recovery, the scale of inbound tourism reception will exceed 20 million in 2022, and orderly recovery will be the keynote of future inbound tourism development.

Dr. Liu Xiangyan, project director of the International Institute of China Tourism Academy (Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan Research Institute), said that since the beginning of this year, more countries or regions have canceled or further relaxed international travel restrictions.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, as of December 5, 2022, 117 countries worldwide canceled all entry restrictions related to epidemic prevention and control. Against this background, the pent-up demand for international travel has been effectively released, and the pace of recovery of the global tourism industry has accelerated, showing an accelerated rebound trend, the demand in China's major inbound tourist source markets continues to pick up, and the potential need for inbound tourism has increased significantly.

However, even if the restrictions on cross-border travel are lifted, China's inbound tourism reception system has been severely impacted in the three years of the pandemic, especially the talent team is facing practical difficulties such as regrouping, which will not be easy to recover in the short term.

Zhang Hui, dean of the Modern Tourism Research Institute of Beijing Jiaotong University, said that "the recovery of China's tourism industry depends on the adjustment of epidemic prevention and control policies and the recovery of the overall social and economic energy.

However, the three-year impact of the epidemic has led to a significant reduction in the national discretionary income. The scale of tourism consumption, consumption structure, and consumer behavior will also shrink to a certain extent. Therefore, even if the epidemic prevention and control policy is adjusted, the tourism market still needs buffer space, and international routes still need time to recover. "

At present, China's tourism market is still facing many uncertainties.


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