Amidst the fervor of full bookings, bustling queues at international departure halls in airports, and a notable influx of Chinese tourists heading to popular global destinations, China’s outbound tourism industry is witnessing an impressive resurgence. The enthusiasm surrounding travel has been particularly evident during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays, spanning from September 29 to October 6.
Wang Shihua, hailing from Taiyuan, the capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, exemplifies this wave of travelers. Following the Mid-Autumn Festival, which traditionally signifies reunions and fell on a Friday this year, he embarked on a journey to Thailand with his family. During their six-day sojourn, Wang plans to explore renowned attractions like the Grand Palace, relish Thai massage, and savor local cuisine. Expressing his motivation for this trip, Wang shared, “I visited Thailand several years ago, and the experience left me with great memories. Now that my city has opened direct flights to Thailand, I have to visit it again.”
The National Day “golden week” holiday has seen a remarkable spike in China’s outbound tourism. Data from leading travel platforms in China, including Trip.com Group and Fliggy, indicates that orders for overseas trips during this eight-day holiday have surged nearly 20 times compared to the same period last year.
Thailand, among the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, took a strategic step by announcing a five-month visa-free policy for Chinese tourists in September. Subsequently, the nation has continued to witness growth in travel inquiries and bookings, solidifying its position among the top destinations for outbound travel during the ongoing holiday season.
Li Gaochao, assistant general manager of a major international travel agency in Shanxi, highlighted the significance of the visa-free policy, as it translates into savings of approximately 500 yuan (about 69.64 U.S. dollars) in travel costs for Chinese tourists. Moreover, following the resumption of group tours by Chinese travel agencies and online tourism service providers to a wider array of countries and regions in August, travel routes to Central and East Africa, Europe, and fully booked tour packages for Middle Eastern destinations like Dubai have experienced heightened popularity.
Notably, representatives from various countries have made efforts to attract Chinese tourists, leveraging the swift resurgence of China’s outbound tourism market. The national tourist boards of countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the European Travel Commission have collaborated with China’s online travel agency, Mafengwo, to draw tourists to Northern Europe.
In mid-September, the Korea Tourism Organization inked a memorandum of understanding with Trip.com Group, signaling a promising uptick in outbound tourists to the Republic of Korea during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays.
Industry insiders observe shifting consumer preferences, with Chinese tourists increasingly inclined toward immersive experiences and high-quality services. Consequently, flexible private group tours have gained popularity during this holiday season. Zhao Wenzhi, president of GZL International Travel Service Ltd. in south China’s Guangdong Province, emphasized the growing demand for high-end outbound tourism. He anticipates that quality small-group routes, featuring unique tourism elements, will emerge as dark horses during this ‘golden week.’
This perspective aligns with data from travel platforms, indicating a substantial surge in group tour bookings to countries such as Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Sri Lanka, and Kenya during this period compared to 2019.
Experts assert that as the world’s largest source of outbound tourists, China’s resumption of outbound group tours will play a pivotal role in driving the global tourism industry’s recovery.
According to the 2023 Global Consumer Insights Survey China Report released by global auditing and consultancy firm PwC, Chinese consumers are notably enthusiastic about travel. In comparison to their global counterparts, 62 percent of Chinese consumers anticipate increasing their spending on travel. More than 50 percent of them express a likelihood to embark on international flights within the next six months. This presents significant opportunities for the global tourism, hospitality, and retail sectors.
Zhang Yang, affiliated with the China Tourism Academy, affirms that “the gradual return of Chinese tourists around the world will inject recovery momentum into the global economy.” This optimistic outlook underscores the vital role played by China’s outbound tourism in the broader global economic recovery landscape.