Thailand has been the biggest outbound international market from China for some time now, however, the story is a little different this summer, with seat capacity being trimmed back by 6% compared to last summer. Passenger bookings fell in May, typically the busiest month for Chinese visitors to Thailand, by 7%.
2018 ended with bookings still ahead of the previous year but this started to change in early 2019 as economic showdown across Asia started to impact travel. China, in particular, recorded its slowest economic growth in Q2 2019 since 1992. Whilst this still remains better than the global average, it is certainly a dampening demand for international travel.
Having invested in infrastructure to support the Chinese tourism boom, any slowdown is of concern and the country does not want to be in a position where it has more capacity than needed. Concern for one country is an opportunity for another. As aviation capacity in China–Thailand market is declining other markets are growing faster. The Top 10 International Country Markets from China recorded on average 5.7% growth in seat capacity in the three months between Jun and August 2019 compared to the same period in the previous year. Japan stands out, with a growth of 21%.
This growth is being driven by Chinese carriers which already operate 74% of seats between China and Japan. They added 28% more seats, or over half a million, over the three months to August 2019 from the previous year. Travelers between the two countries can choose from 111 different routes. Just 6 of these operate from Beijing, 23 from Shanghai and 4 from Guangzhou, meaning there are services to Japan from many of China’s Tier 2 cities.
Looking beyond the biggest international markets, to the Top 10 Fastest Growth International Country Markets, there are some countries seeing much faster growth. Myanmar has seen capacity growth rocket, with seats more than doubling while the other 9 countries have all recorded capacity growth of over 30% for the 3 months to August 2019 compared to the previous year. Italy ranked second for growth, has seen capacity growth by 37%.
Of the Top 10 Fastest Growing International Country Markets, the biggest are Macau, Cambodia and the Philippines.
According to China Daily China is the largest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia and the country hopes to attract 3 million Chinese tourists by 2020, a million more than the 2 million who traveled there in 2018. Cambodia is home to three world heritage sites including the famous Angkor Wat temple. Whilst Cambodia would rather be known for its heritage and culture, Chinese visitors to Sihanoukville in the south are mostly drawn by the city’s casino.
Airlines added over 160,000 seats during June to August 2019, compared to the previous year, taking capacity to nearly 670,000 for the three-month period.
Macau - China Routes August 2019
Source: OAG Mapper
Macau remains popular with visitors from mainland China, with carriers growing seat capacity by 20% and 36% in the last 2 years respectively. This summer these visitors have benefitted from 30 routes to Macau, compared to just 21 two years ago. Travelers can choose from nearly 50 flights per day, with high daily frequency from Shanghai (11 per day) and Beijing (5 per day). New routes (highlighted in black on the map) have been added from Nanchang, Qingdao, Kunming, Xi’an, Sanya and Wenzhou amongst others, offering travelers even more choice than before. Whilst all of China’s bigger airlines operate to Macau, Zheijiang Loong Airlines is the newest, delivering travelers from Xi’an and Enshi for the first time to Macau this year.