All eyes are on tourist movements in China now, as they not only serve as the first indication of recuperated demand, but also as a trajectory for how domestic and outbound travel may eventually recover.
Industry experts are growing hopeful as China is already showing green shoots of recovery. During the Qingming Festival on April 4, the country saw some 43 million domestic travelers, and on Labour Day weekend from May 1 to 5, this number rose to 115 million.
Furthermore, local flight capacity has recovered considerably; by the start of May, it was back to 75 per cent of last year’s, reported OC&C Strategy Consultants. ForwardKeys also found that domestic air arrivals jumped by 250 per cent between the first and last week of April 2020.
These optimistic patterns were enabled by a number of factors, including the Alipay Health Code. The state-mandated app records citizens’ daily temperatures and issues them a health rating, which can allow or deny them access to public areas and travel.
Kwok also observed a shift in preferred destinations. Previously popular city-based locations like Beijing and Shanghai have given way to sightseeing destinations like Lijiang and Qingdao.
In a survey of Chinese travelers, COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute found that the majority of travelers aged 34 or younger had voted for “a different form of tourism, more respectful of the visited communities and of nature”, as well as “avoiding mass tourism destinations and large cities” and “not wishing to visit certain countries and regions that are at risk from a health point of view”.
Hyper competition in new ways
Local travel and hospitality businesses are already capitalising on these movements. Jack Chuang, partner, OC&C Strategy Consultants, shared that the scales have tipped considerably towards OTAs, WeChat mini programmes and direct online channels, edging out offline travel agencies. Online businesses have rolled out waves of campaigns specifically targeting the market.
New ways of flying
As Chinese travelers resume their excursions, domestic and international airlines are rolling out different measures that may forever change the face of air travel.
On Cathay Pacific flights, passengers are spaced one seat apart where possible, and China Eastern has transitioned from hot meals to sandwiches and food cartons.
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