Tourists seen at a departure gate at Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday. (Photo by ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY)
Chinese tourists have shown their enthusiasm to once again venture overseas after the government eased COVID-19 restrictions on international travel on Sunday. Singapore and Thailand have become hot overseas tourist destinations, and the return of Chinese tourists will bring new vitality to the global tourism market, experts said.
Beginning Sunday, quarantine-free cross-border travel resumed in China after nearly three years of restrictions.
The volume of international flight tickets booked for travel on Sunday surged 628 percent year-on-year, hitting a level not seen since March 2020, and the booking volumes of outbound and inbound flights each accounted for half of the total, according to Tongcheng Travel, a Suzhou-based online travel agency.
For the period from Sunday to Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 22 this year, many Chinese residing overseas have shown demand to reunite with family members, and the trend has boosted sales of inbound flight tickets.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chinese mainland started to allow quarantine-free cross-border trips, and Hong Kong became the top departure city for inbound travelers on Sunday. Main destinations include Shanghai; Guangzhou, Guangdong province; and Chengdu, Sichuan province, said Tongcheng Travel.
This year, China's outbound tourism market is expected to rebound significantly, the China Tourism Academy said. For overseas hotel bookings, cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand's Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, as well as Milan, Italy have already seen an apparent increase of hotel bookings by Chinese travelers, said Trip.com Group.
Since China relaxed COVID-19 curbs on international travel, multiple tourism bureaus from different countries have expressed their welcome to Chinese tourists. The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects that this year, some 5 million Chinese tourists are likely to visit Thailand, while the number stood at 274,000 in 2022.
Since Dec 27, among Chinese tourists booking overseas hotel stays longer than 20 days, hotel bookings in Thailand made up 44 percent of the total, and taking a long vacation has become the choice for many travelers to Thailand, according to Trip.com.
Abu Dhabi's tourism bureau said it has been actively preparing for the China market's reopening over the past two years, and is looking forward to welcoming Chinese visitors to the Mideast country.
"China has always been a key market for Abu Dhabi. In 2023, we will be focusing on key segments including couples and families interested in culture, luxury, new experiences and family entertainment. We will also continue to grow awareness among Chinese audiences," said Abdulla Yousuf Mohammad, director of Travel Trade and Market Development at the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.
South African Tourism said the country keenly looks forward to the return of Chinese tourists. China has been a key source market for inbound tourists to South Africa, and it boasts a huge growth potential.
In December, Air China launched flights connecting Beijing, Johannesburg and Chengdu, Sichuan province, and it is the carrier's first direct flight launched between South Africa and Southwest China.
"The return of Chinese tourists is to be expected for destinations globally. It is expected to give a boost to the Asian travel market in particular. Chinese travelers are likely to rebuild their travel and spending confidence," said Shen Jiani, a senior researcher at Trip.com's research institute.