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China travel boom is stuck in the departure lounge

12/13/2021| 1:55:16 PM|

The outbound travel spending is estimated to have reduced by about $130 billion.

The domestic Chinese travel boom is going nowhere fast. It was already struggling of late; Now a renewed surge in pandemic curbs is making regional travel difficult. Duty-free giant China Tourism's decision to shelve its $6 billion Hong Kong secondary listing , first unveiled in June, shows the industry hunkering down for staycation pain.

Chinese holidaymakers have barely left the country for the past two years due to excruciating quarantine rules at the border. That de-facto border closure has reduced outbound travel spending by about $130 billion, Gavekal Dragonomics estimates. 

State-controlled China Tourism grabbed 90% of the market, and at its peak in February was worth $119 billion, trading at nearly 70 times expected earnings, per Refinitiv. But government responses to fears of new virus variants are undermining the domestic travel recovery. Guangdong province, an economic powerhouse with 126 million people, last week halted some group tourist trips after finding just one Covid-19 case. 

That spells more pain for the industry. China Tourism had already suffered a bruising third quarter: Sales dropped 12% year-on-year while its gross profit margin fell 8 percentage points. Its shares have slumped 41% this year from the February high, taking its forward price-to-earnings ratio down close to its pre-pandemic level of 27.6, per Refinitiv.

It’s hardly alone. Travel agency Trip.com has lost around 20% of its market value this year while Shanghai international Airport, a major hub, suffered a steep fall of 40%. Nation-wide, prices for travel shrank 3.5% in November read more on a monthly basis. 

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TAGS: China Tourism | travel boom
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