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China’s domestic travel breaks 50% barrier

06/01/2020| 4:12:48 PM|

There is potential for further recovery when restrictions are removed.

Domestic air travel in China, which has been recovering slowly in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, has now reached more than 50% of what it was at the equivalent moment in 2019, based on issued air tickets, ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company, reveals in its latest assessment.

In addition, analysis of flight ticketing data reveals a significant uptick in last-minute domestic flight bookings in China between 11 May and 21 May. During that period, the lead time between ticketing and travel shortened dramatically; 72% of flight tickets were issued within 4 days of the travel date, compared with 51% at the equivalent point in 2019. ForwardKeys believes that this phenomenon is significantly influenced by students returning to university, as the timing coincides with universities reopening – a milestone that is expected to stimulate Chinese consumers to travel more.

Throughout March and April, air travel continued to pick up slowly until it received a fillip from the Labour Day holiday at the start of May.

While all this sounds encouraging, it is likely that a stronger recovery is underway in the hospitality sector, with many people choosing to drive or take the high-speed train rather than fly.

According to the Travel Willingness Survey conducted by China Tourism Academy and China’s online travel agency Ctrip, in March, 41% of travellers said that they would travel by car once the coronavirus outbreak had been contained, 29% would travel by train, 16% would take a coach trip and only 14% would fly.

ForwardKeys VP Insights, Olivier Ponti said: “At the end of April, we were expecting to see an increase in domestic flight bookings as soon as domestic travel restrictions were eased and that indeed happened. Nevertheless, some restrictions are still in place; so, there is potential for further recovery when they are also removed.

“With regards to international travel, a current strict restriction which limits 134 flights a week is due to be eased in the coming months, according to China’s aviation authority’s statement on the 27 May. However, at this stage, the increased capacity is mainly intended to accommodate the demand of overseas Chinese to return home. I regret that there is no sign yet of a recovery in Chinese outbound tourism.”

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TAGS: domestic air travel | ForwardKeys | Ctrip
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