After nearly three years of COVID-19 restrictions, China’s outbound travel market is finally showing signs of recovery. In January 2023, the Chinese government reopened its borders to non-essential travel, and travel agents were once again allowed to sell outbound group tours and packages. While the recovery has been gradual so far, there are reasons for optimism heading into the year’s fourth quarter.
Current situation of China’s outbound market in 2023
According to ForwardKeys Air Ticket Data, total China outbound travel from January to August 2023 is down 64% compared to the same period in 2019. However, there is some variation across regions, with Africa and the Middle East showing the strongest recovery, followed by Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas.
For the summer travel season, the top five destinations for Chinese tourists were Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Macau, Singapore, and Malaysia. Vietnam, the tenth most popular destination, recovered the least, with arrivals down 46% compared to 2019 levels.
Golden week, which this year runs from September 29 (Mid-Autumn Festival) to October 7, is another peak travel season for Chinese tourists. The most resilient destinations for outbound China travel compared to 2019 levels during this period are:
Chinese Outbound Market Outlook for Q4 2023
Seat capacity growth is expected to increase for all regions in Q4 2023, with Africa and the Middle East (-2%) leading the way, followed by Europe (-44%), Asia Pacific (-48%), and the Americas (-54%).
Asia Pacific is the second-lowest recovery area, making it challenging for destinations hoping that China will be the key market to revive international tourism.
According to a Dragon Trail survey of Chinese travel sentiment, the outlook for China outbound travel in Q4 is cautiously optimistic. However, it is important to note that the Chinese traveler has changed during the pandemic.
Some key highlights include:
- Northeast Asia is more popular than ever.
- Europe and Asia Pacific maintain appeal.
- Consumers are interested in outbound travel, but few have taken a trip in 2023.
- Safety perceptions of most outbound destinations have improved significantly.
- Safety concerns center around personal security, with travelers seeking proactive personal solutions.
Overall, the outlook for Chinese outbound travel in Q4 2023 is positive, but there are still some challenges to overcome. Destinations should focus on promoting safety and personal security measures to attract Chinese travelers.