The first round of outbound travel fever in China is coming ahead of Labor Day, as China’s largest online travel platform Trip.com sees an 18-fold increase in demand.
According to information provided to AGB, outbound travel bookings from China increased more than 18 times year-on-year, reaching their peak so far this year. The search volume for outbound flight tickets for the Labor Day holiday increased more than nine times year-on-year.
“Outbound travel has seen the first wave of growth this year, which will drive the resumption of airlines and the rapid recovery of the basic service capacity of local service. Outbound travel is expected to recover to 80 percent by the end of the year,” said Sun Jie, CEO of Trip.com Group.
The Chinese OTA giant finds the popularity of outbound travel is “exceeding expectations”. Based on the company’s data, outbound travel bookings from mainland Chinese travelers had a surge starting from April and the company believes that the drop in flight ticket prices is an important reason. The average price of outbound one-way tickets was RMB2,564 ($375), down 58 percent year-on-year.
“Thanks to the restoration of flight infrastructure, the number of outbound travelers is growing rapidly. Cross-border flights recovered to 10 percent in January, 15 percent in February, and 21 percent in early mid-March, compared with the same period in 2019”, noted Trip.com.
Regarding international flight resumption, destinations that previously received a large number of Chinese travelers were more responsive, and flight resumption has been quicker than other destinations. The fastest recovery was flights from Chinese cities to/from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, which increased up to 36 percent compared to the same period last year. Limited by entry policies and other factors, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Canada had a slower recovery of flight capacity, with a recovery rate of between 5 and 8 percent.
Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia are ranked as the Top 5 destinations for outbound travel during the Labor Day holiday period, with Thailand still topping the list of popular destinations for Chinese travelers.
In terms of regions, outbound travel is mainly focused on short-distance travel, with Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia benefiting more from the trends. The Top 5 cities in terms of outbound travel hotel bookings are: Hong Kong, Phuket, Bangkok, Macau, and Singapore. The rapid return of manpower in the tourism industry, lower prices of air tickets, and the availability of hotels have all contributed to the rapid recovery of tourism to the destinations.
Test for the industry
According to data released by the FlightAI market insight platform, under the Trip.com Group, flight ticket search volumes for the coming month increased by 32 percent compared with 2019, and the searching index for the Labor Day holiday increased by 88 percent compared with 2019 levels. The same data also show that the number of outbound hotel searches also saw a 29-fold increase, and the average booking price increased 47 percent year-on-year.
Both the search data and the booking results reflect a strong willingness to travel. “The popularity of outbound travel will be a big test of those destinations’ service capacity. The impact of the pandemic has led to a significant decline in its service capacity, resulting that some destinations will be overloaded during Labor Day, so the travel destinations that handle well the situation will have more gain during the summer holidays and Chinese National Day in October”, said Sun Jie.
The CEO also believes that the Labor Day performance of those travel destinations will “directly affect the long-term ability of the destination to attract Chinese travelers, and service will become a key factor in the reshuffle of the destination”.