Should bode well when international recovery comes. The recent release of the official public holidays calendar for China has apparently kicked off a boom in the booking of domestic holiday travel by Chinese travelers. Like the would-be holidaymakers in most countries, the Chinese are sitting atop a cauldron of pent-up desire to travel. However, they cannot satisfy that desire through international travel, most of which is subject to country bans. As well, most major air carriers have had to cut back on routes and flight frequencies because of the reach of the COVID-19 virus and global pandemic that it has caused.
But Chinese travelers seem to have enough in-country destinations and experiences to satisfy the desire to travel for the time being. In addition, China, where the COVID-19 virus was first reported almost a year ago, has in place a strict set of practices and controls, and in the words of one report, “has all but declared victory” over the virus.
As a result, there are reports, such as that from Trip.com, the country’s largest travel company, that bookings for smaller, private group tours during the Lunar New Year holiday soared 160 percent on one day compared with a normal day. The OTA also indicated that searches for independent tourist itineraries related to the three-day New Year’s Day holiday from January 1 to 3 soared 120 percent compared with a normal day. And online travel operator Tongcheng-Elong said searches for tickets for travel, tourist attractions and other related products had surged 300 percent from normal as of Thursday afternoon.
What’s selling? Private tour groups are gaining in popularity with Chinese tourists as they feature limited numbers of tourists, usually family members or friends. Most of those booking private group tours for the break are families with children or senior members, Trip.com said.
The developments above tell the U.S. travel marketer or DMO promoter hoping for the Chinese market to come back is: Be prepared. Should the USA be able to open up to greater numbers of Chinese travelers (and other international travelers, for that matter) because of a reduction in COVID-19 virus levels at home, it seems likely that there will be a sufficient number of Chinese travelers ready and willing to visit.
Trip.com’s Big Picture: Meanwhile, China Travel News reported that the Chinese domestic business of Trip.com Group continues to show strong recovery momentum:
—China domestic air ticketing business achieved positive year-over-year growth for the third quarter of 2020.
—China domestic hotel reservations achieved positive growth, with mid-to-high end domestic hotel reservations reaching double digit year-over-year growth exiting the third quarter of 2020.
—Net revenue for the third quarter of 2020 was $805 million, representing a 48 percent decrease from the same period in 2019 and a 73 percent increase from the previous quarter.
—Accommodation reservation revenue for the third quarter of 2020 was $365 million, representing a 40 percent decrease from the same period in 2019, and a 98% increase from the previous quarter, primarily due to the recovery of China domestic market.
—Packaged-tour revenue for the third quarter of 2020 was $48 million, representing an 80 percent decrease from the same period in 2019, and a 151 percent increase from the previous quarter, primarily due to the easement of cross-region travel restrictions in China since mid-July.
—However, as a result of the continued negative impact due to COVID-19 in the fourth quarter of 2020, the Company expects net revenue to decrease by approximately 37 percent to 42 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter of 2020.
“In the third quarter of 2020, the global travel industry continued to be under significant pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in China, we have already seen most of our major business segments return to pre-COVID level of activities in recent months,” said James Liang, executive chairman of Trip.com Group.
Lastly, this item: Illustrating how some nations are establishing “travel bubbles” with neighboring or nearby countries, Japan and China have resumed business travel ties, with travelers using Tokyo’s Narita Airport making about 20 flights to and from Chinese cities that are operated weekly—and vice versa. (Japan has taken the same measure with Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.)