Last year offered Asian travel destinations a glimpse of what life would be like without Chinese tourists.
For many, it was economically bleak. Of course, visitors from China weren’t the only ones staying away, as a great proportion of the global population “sheltered in place” to try and stem the spread of the coronavirus, but by virtue of their colossal pre-pandemic numbers – 169 million outbound trips were made from the mainland in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics – their absence was in many cases the most apparent.
Now, even as vaccines are being administered around the world and we edge ever closer to a “new normal”, there are suggestions that it might take some time for Chinese tourists to return to their wandering ways.
According to online travel industry publication Skift, “India is being seen as the next wellspring of Asian tourists as the hopes that China will drive a tourism recovery any time soon look more distant by the day.”
It is not the first time destinations that want to diversify their source markets have looked to the subcontinent. Although a mere 26 million outbound trips were made from India in 2018, Indian travellers appear to be currently clocking up more air miles than their Chinese counterparts “as word gets around that Indian tourists are flocking to Maldives and Dubai, two destinations that have reopened since the middle of last year with no quarantine required”, reports Skift. Indeed, 2020 saw India knock China from the top spot to become the Maldives’ largest source market.
As for the destinations across Asia that have been dealt an equally stark reminder of the untenable position their dependence on international arrivals places them in, whether the first to return en masse are from China or India matters a lot less than when, and if, they return.
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