A view of the booth of Trip.com during an expo in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, earlier this year. (CHEN YIHANG/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Travel patterns of Chinese tourists are gradually changing as they attach greater importance to safety, uniqueness and sustainability amid a post-pandemic recovery in the global tourism industry, said the top executive of Trip.com, China's largest online travel agency.
Local tour operators, hotels and airlines have also been offering more hygiene products and services after COVID-19 to better protect tourists who go abroad, said Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com, in an interview on Monday.
Chinese tourists are now more willing to form smaller groups with families and close friends rather than getting enrolled in a group made up of 50 strangers, a pattern more widely seen before the virus outbreak. They are also setting aside budgets for local drivers and tourist guides for such smaller groups, she said during Trip.com's Envision 2023 global partner conference in Shanghai on Monday.
The booking window for trips has also been shortened, Sun added.
On Aug 10, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the third batch of countries and regions that have reopened for group tours departing from China. Up to 138 countries and regions are now available for group trips after the latest adjustment.
Since this phase of reopening is advancing gradually, tourists will make plans accordingly, thereby indicating a shorter booking time window, Sun said.
Sustainability is another catchword in the tourism industry at present, especially among the younger generation, she said. Travel packages under the "wellness "theme are becoming more popular as tourists would like to combine medical services with travel.
People are also planning more family trips to make up for the deprivation of travel over the past three years due to the pandemic. The greater importance attached to family outings can also be translated into a sustainable pattern in the tourism industry, said Sun.
Themed travel is also gaining steam in China. People would go for diving in summer, hiking in the fall and skiing in winter. Such consolidated travel patterns also point to sustainability in the tourism industry, she said.
Younger tourists are more interested in traveling to less-visited areas. They view this as a means to help people in remote areas, Sun said.
According to a report released by the World Travel &Tourism Council in June, the Chinese tourism industry is likely to generate 11.5 million new job opportunities in 2023. The industry's contribution to China's GDP may reach 9.9 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) this year, up 150 percent year-on-year.
Envision 2023 is the first conference of its kind that Trip.com has held since the pandemic.
Up to 700 industry experts from 20 countries and regions attended the conference, including top executives from hoteliers such as Accor, Hilton and InterContinental as well as several airlines.
Alhasan Aldabbagh, president of the APAC markets at the Saudi Tourism Authority, Derya Arslandedikli, culture and tourism counselor at the Turkish Embassy in China, and Zsofia Jakab, deputy CEO of the Hungarian Tourism Agency, also attended the conference.