Asia's hotels, airlines and travel agencies are preparing for a rush of Chinese tourists during the Lunar New Year this week, as consumers refuse to abandon holiday plans despite the slowing economy and uncertain outlook back home.
While the level of average spending will not be clear until after the holiday, Ctrip, China's largest online travel platform, said its bookings showed that travelers were opting for relatively more expensive individual travel packages rather than cheaper group tours.
Among those who registered to travel through Ctrip travel platform, 48% chose non-group tours, such as individual trips, customized travel or private group tours which can be organized by two people.
"The fee of private group tours is generally about 23% higher than that of regular group tours," said Xiao Yinyuan, head of Ctrip's outbound tour business.
In the premium segment, bookings at Ctrip have more than doubled during this year's holiday from a year earlier. Ctrip increased the number of designers to more than 5,000 to cater the surging demand for flexible tours, yet they are still not enough, said the report.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China forecasts a sharp rise in air-tickets sales. During the 40-day travel rush from January 21 to March 1, air travelers are expected to make 73 million domestic and international trips, up 12% year-on-year.
One of China's biggest airlines, China Southern Airlines, is expecting to carry more than 12 million passengers for the period, up 4% from 2018. The company is temporarily increasing the number of flights by nearly 5,300, of which 500 are dedicated to international routes, including flights between Guangzhou/ Shenzhen and Southeast Asia. It is also upgrading some narrow body aircraft to twin aisle wide-bodies to carry more passengers.
China Eastern Airlines is also adding extra flights in February, including routes between Shanghai and Japan's Nagoya.
Chinese outbound travelers have booked tours in more than 96 countries and territories, Ctrip's data shows, with the farthest reaching Antarctica.
Japanese travel agency JTB said bookings for the Chinese New Year from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong had surged 14% on last year. "Tourists from Greater China now tend to go to local and sometimes niche destinations," said a company spokesperson.
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