China Market Notes, Part One: When one contemplates the riddle of the Visit USA Chinese travel market, one learns that it is an exasperating riddle. One part of the riddle is that tour and travel professionals in both the USA and China would like to see travel to the USA grow again. And on the other part is that, for the governments involved, it doesn’t seem to matter that both sides want such travel.
Why? INBOUND cannot say it doesn’t matter why. Right now, public opinion in the United States probably believe that the Chinese government has antagonized and upset American sensibilities with the way it did away with any form of self-rule in Hong Kong. There is more. And Chinese opinion probably believes that the U.S. is unjustly accusing it of exporting COVID-19. There is more.
And if you believe that, maybe, just maybe, if political leaders in both countries would only take a step back, take a deep breath and resolve to “zip it” for a while and allow the blameless advocates of travel to do their work and buy and sell the U.S. travel experience, things would get better, you are probably wrong.
Why? To give you an idea of the kind of rhetoric that is being deployed in Chinese media channels these days, consider the following four headlines on the July 16 home page of Global Times, a de facto, semi-official daily tabloid newspaper that operates under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper:
—“China’s Q2 GDP Growth crushes Washington’s lies: Global Times editorial”
—“Why US democratic system can’t prevent extreme China policy.”
—“American elites fail to accept UA losing dominant position.”
—“US anti-China hawks sanctioned by China keep meddling in various global issues.”
*Last month, the United States Department of State designated Global Times as a “foreign mission.
China Market Notes, Part Two: Chinese really do want to travel and, if it were not for the disincentive that the news articles above represent, they would likely want to resume and grow their visits to the United States.
Articles headlined along the lines of “More than 80% of Chinese travelers plan to travel in the Second Half of 2020,” have received widespread attention in the global travel news media. The part about the “more than 80%” is not wishful thinking. It and other attention-grabbing points of interest are based on real survey results. Some of the items noted include the following:
—Chinese travelers have a strong desire to resume travel this year, with most preferring to travel domestically further afield due to uncertainty around the pandemic overseas, according to a recent Ctrip survey. The “2H2020 Travel Sentiment Survey” by Ctrip’s Tourism Big Data Lab, which polled several thousand Ctrip.com users hailing from more than 50 cities across China, showed that 82.6 per cent of respondents are keen to travel in 2H2020. Of these, 80 per cent showed a preference for longer-distance travel between provinces.
—In a recent study by the China Tourism Academy (CTA), 80.2 percent of study participants said they intend to travel in 3Q2020, marking a recovery of approximately 90 per cent compared to 2019 figures.
—A press release from Ctrip’s Tourism Big Data Lab quoted a researcher who said that pent-up market demand in 1H2020 will be progressively released in 2H2020, should the pandemic die out and cross-province travel open up. Added CTA, the travel market is likely to have a U-shaped recovery this year.
—This bodes well for tourism companies and employees, especially as summer vacation and holidays such as Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week (October 1-7)
—57.1 per cent of those surveyed indicated that they would contemplate going on more domestic trips if outbound travel does not recover in the rest of 2020.
—In line with summer holidays and the National Day holiday, results indicated that the peak travel periods will be July, October and August; with 43.1 per cent, 42.6 per cent and 41.9 per cent of respondents preferring these months, respectively.
—For domestic travel, particularly longer-distance travel within the country, most travelers (61.5 percent) preferred FIT trips or group tours (51.6 per cent). Meanwhile, 25.6 per cent and 19.4 per cent of respondents indicated interest in customized tours and self-drive trips, respectively.
—These preferences were also reflected in Ctrip’s recent bookings, with the three most popular product types being FIT, intra-province group travel, and customized tours.
—A substantial majority (70 per cent) of respondents said they intended to increase or maintain their travel expenditure levels.
—Nearly 40 per cent of respondents indicated that they would set aside 5,000 yuan ($711) to 10,000 yuan per trip, making it the most popular travel budget range in the survey. This was followed by a budget of more than 10,000 yuan for about 30 per cent of respondents.
—Although OTAs were the most popular travel booking channel among survey respondents (45.3 per cent said they would make bookings via OTAs), 43 per cent of respondents said they would make travel reservations through traditional brick-and-mortar agencies.
—Meanwhile, booking via offline retail presence of OTAs has emerged as a significant trend in recent years. This was reflected in the survey, with 41.9 per cent of respondents saying they would book through this channel.