Travel: Summer likely to see greater tour demand
China's outbound travel market will maintain strong growth this year as pent-up demand sparks a tourism boom and more big-spending travelers head overseas this summer, industry observers said.
Tourists traveling abroad are willing to spend more money and stay longer, highlighting a surge in willingness to travel overseas after China optimized its COVID-19 response measures in December, according to a report by Mastercard.
Compared with the period between January 2019 and March 2020, average travel duration has increased from nine to 11 days, and the overall per capita budget for outbound tourists has risen from 34,300 yuan ($4,950) to 39,800 yuan, up 16 percent, the report found.
"Chinese tourists who have not been traveling abroad for three years can't wait to venture out again. When they travel overseas again, their consumption behavior has changed significantly from the past, and they are eyeing new ways and trends of traveling globally," said Dennis Chang, China division president of Mastercard.
The travel market witnessed a bonanza during the five-day May Day holiday, with the strongest customer demand in the past three years. Pent-up demand to travel abroad is expected to be further released in the second half of the year, while the summer vacation period is likely to see greater travel demand from families who haven't taken trips for a long time, according to Tuniu Corp, an online travel agency.
China has so far resumed outbound group tours to 60 countries and regions, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Southeast Asian countries remain the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, and countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are becoming increasingly sought after by Chinese consumers, Tuniu found.
More people have inquired about and booked cruise tours in Europe and the polar regions for the latter half of the year, with most of the trips lasting more than 15 days and carrying a high price tag, according to Tuniu.
"Chinese travelers now favor small and private group tours more, and young consumers in particular are looking for high-quality experiences. They prefer high-end catering, transport and accommodation options," said Li Peng, director of long-haul outbound tourism at Tuniu.
The Mastercard survey also found that travelers with higher incomes who made frequent trips abroad before the COVID-19 outbreak had a stronger willingness to travel overseas again. Those aged between 21 and 45 had the strongest desire to travel abroad, according to the report.
Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, China's largest online travel agency, said while there has been a surge in outbound travel among Chinese mainland tourists since January, flight capacity has not yet fully recovered. The company and its partners are working to ensure the demand is met, and she is optimistic about growth prospects for this year.
"I'm very excited about the potential opportunities. We have collaborated with various destinations, which have seen a surge in international tourists since early 2023. The biggest challenge facing the travel industry is rehiring and retraining new employees after three years of the pandemic," she said.
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