“Chinese tourism is FIT and healthy.” That is the situation, as summed up by Olivier Ponti, VP Insights at ForwardKeys, which forecasts travel trends by analysing over 17 million flight booking transactions a day.
But what is behind this assessment? “There are two major trends…”, replies Olivier, “…there is increasing enthusiasm to travel independently, as opposed to in groups (in the travel industry, independent travel is called FIT), and more people are seizing the opportunity to travel abroad over major public holidays.”
ForwardKeys’ analysis of outbound tourism in the first four months of this year reveals that independent (FIT) travel grew by 12.7%. “It reflects a growing confidence in doing one’s own thing”, said Olivier, “particularly in the case of younger and more experienced travellers.”
The trends were particularly marked during the Chinese New Year, at the end of January and early February, which is the busiest time for Chinese outbound travel, accounting for around three quarters of total international air departures during the first three months of 2019.
Chinese FIT outbound travel grew by 18.8% during 2019’s Chinese New Year holiday, compared to the equivalent holiday period in 2018. “The growth was extraordinary, given the ongoing trade tensions, currency inflation and a slowing economy.” Opined Olivier.
FIT travel has also surged (and is set to surge) over recent and upcoming public holidays, Qingming on 5 April, Labour Day at the start of May and the Dragon Boat festival on 7-9 June. “The way the Chinese government has allocated public holidays has created more opportunities for people to take breaks abroad. For example, in 2019, the Labour Day holiday has been extended from one day to four days, May 1-4, for 2019, which means that, this year, Chinese travellers can take three days of paid leave and enjoy an 8-day vacation.”
An increase in seat capacity has also helped to fuel the growth in travel to Europe. For example, between 1st January 2018 and 30th June 2019, seat capacity from China to London increased by 24.8%, compared to the equivalent period a year before, thanks to the addition of nine new routes. Capacity to Paris increased 8.1%, thanks to five new routes and capacity to Rome increased 31.7% from one new route.
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