According to Trip.com Group data, outbound flight bookings increased 254% in late December, the day after it was announced that travel restrictions would be eased as of January 8.
“We are optimistic about the tourism outlook,” Wendy Min, head of media and executive communications at the Trip.com Group, told CNN Travel.
High pent-up demand and rising consumer confidence are expected in response to the most recent policy announcement, which is good.
Based on reservations made through Trip.com Group, the top destinations for Chinese travellers are Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand. The US, UK, and Australia are the top three countries for long-distance travel.
Short-haul flights are becoming more common due to (lower) rates, according to a trend the company noticed. Even before COVID, Min claims that Singapore, South Korea, and Japan have always been highly popular with Chinese tourists.
According to Dr Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), it makes sense for regional tourism to rebound first because it is simpler and less expensive to visit close-by locations.
However, he says, the first quarter of 2023 will primarily consist of urgent non-leisure travel for business, family gatherings, student travel, or medical reasons.
Chinese business visitors will long to reestablish contact with the developed nations of the world, including the US, Japan, and Europe. Additionally, many Chinese students travel to countries like the US, UK, and Australia, therefore some tourists may be organising reunions.
Arlt predicts that in the second quarter of the year, when things like passport and visa approval procedures are in order and flights have fully resumed, leisure travel will begin to increase.
Some vacationers will be eager to secure a passport, a visa, and an affordable ticket. He told CNN Travel that others will watch to see what tales the “pioneers” have to tell when they return.
“The government spent three years making people in China feel afraid of the outside world, so some will still be anxious about whether it's safe to travel.”
In order to demonstrate the superiority of China's authoritarian system, the Chinese state media and the ruling Communist Party have frequently compared the high death tolls in countries like the US and UK to the relatively low ones in China.
Arlt anticipates an increase in Chinese vacationers heading out of the country for trips that highlight wellness, relaxation, and nature as consumer confidence rises over the first quarter, most likely starting around April.
“After all the stress and problems, and for many also grief (due to the high COVID-19 death toll in China), it can be expected that many will choose to get away from it all for a long weekend or at some beach resort in Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia,” Arlt said.
The Dragon Trail International digital marketing firm's director of marketing and communications is Sienna Parulis-Cook who thinks that in 2023 wealthy tourists will flock to the Maldives as their preferred beach resort.
Some people base their travel plans on interests like mountain biking, hiking, wine tasting, cuisine, and calligraphy.
“A lot of Chinese people have had time to develop their special interests (during the past three years),” said Arlt. “The pandemic has proven how fragile and short life can be, so doing meaningful things has become that much more important.”
China was the world's largest outbound travel market in terms of departures and spending prior to the outbreak. Chinese tourists spent about $255 billion on 154.6 million trips abroad in 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
According to COTRI data forecasts, international travel, which includes travel to the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, might total 115 million by the end of the year, a recovery of about three-quarters.
With nearly 11 million Chinese visitors in 2019, Thailand was the No. 1 destination for Chinese tourists, accounting for more than a quarter of the nation's international arrivals.
In 2019, 9.5 million Chinese tourists visited Japan, placing it in a close second place overall. While South Korea attracted about 5.5 million people, Vietnam attracted 5.8 million, and Singapore attracted 3.6 million.