Domestic travel in China over the forthcoming Labor Day holiday is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels substantially, according to travel data analysis from Europe-based specialist ForwardKeys.
A China travel expert said that the demand will “send a strong and positive message” about the condition of the nation’s tourism industry.
The research by ForwardKeys, based on fresh and comprehensive data, shows that flights booked for the Labor Day holiday, which this year runs from May 1 to 5, have eclipsed pre-COVID-19 levels.
As of mid-April, total flight tickets issued for travel over the peak period, May 1-5, were 5.8 percent ahead of where they were at the equivalent moment in 2019 and bookings for the extended holiday period, from April 28 to May 9,were 9.8 percent ahead, according to the report.
The data reveals that China’s capital Beijing, and Shanghai－where the Disney Resort is celebrating its 5th birthday, will be the most popular destinations for holiday travel this spring, with bookings 31.4 percent and 9.7 percent ahead respectively.
The country’s southernmost city of Sanya, which is situated on the holiday island of Hainan in the South China Sea, is proving exceptionally popular, with bookings currently 59.1 percent ahead of 2019 levels.
Olivier Ponti, vice president insights at ForwardKeys said: “This year’s record-breaking Labor Day domestic travel is down to three factors: the release of pent-up demand, control of COVID-19 and imaginative marketing.
“The data is consistently showing the staying power of Hainan. And not only to Sanya are we seeing an increase in flight bookings but also to Haikou, with growth rates of 59 percent and 50 percent respectively. The tropical location, discounted airline deals, and duty-free shopping－all seem to be a very alluring combination,” he added.
Ponti said the outbreak of COVID-19 has revolutionized the way Chinese people travel. “Group booking was once the milk and honey for tour operators and hotels, but now due to safety protocols and travel restrictions we are seeing more promotions sway towards solo or couple travelers. The question is whether this trend remains post-pandemic,” he added.
The findings indicated fewer people will be traveling as part of a group this spring. An analysis of passenger profiles showed that the share of group bookings is down from 17 percent in 2019 to 13 percent in 2021. By comparison, the proportion of people traveling solo or in pairs is up to 56 percent, compared to 52 percent in 2019.
In January, a resurgence of COVID-19 caused a substantial setback in Chinese domestic travel, with arrivals diving 69 percent compared to 2019. However, containment of the disease and innovative travel promotions have stimulated a spirited revival, the report suggested.
Oliver Sedlinger, a veteran Beijing-based consultant on the outbound Chinese travel market, and founder of the tourism marketing consultancy Sedlinger and Associates, said: “The upcoming May holidays in China will send a strong and positive message that tourism and travel is alive and recovering well domestically.
“It also proves that Chinese consumers have not lost their appetite for travel despite the many disruptions caused by the pandemic,” he added.
Even though there is still some way to go in the recovery of outbound travel from China, Sedlinger believes this is very encouraging. He added: “It may also offer hints of future needs and possible new trends in travel habits, which may well spill over to outbound travel consumption too.
“Given that China is one of the most important source markets in the world, I believe international tourism is eagerly awaiting the return of Chinese guests, so this is indeed a very encouraging sign for the global travel industry in a time when good News is needed,” he said.