Chinese Students, U.S. Universities breathe a sigh of relief as Chinese vaccine is now accepted by key academic institutions in the United States. Several famous U.S. universities, including Harvard and Columbia, have recognized the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinopharm (a state-owned company) following the May 7th approval of the vaccine’s emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). Chinese experts said that the notice, which was issued by the Chinese Consulate in New York City, will facilitate travel and academic exchanges between the two countries. Chinese students who have already taken the Sinopharm vaccine no longer need to take COVID-19 shots in the US when they arrive on campus, said the notice.
According to a Global Times article by Fan Anqi and Wan Lin, China experts predicted that other sectors such as commerce and trade in the U.S. will also gradually accept Chinese vaccines amid growing demand to resume personnel exchanges.
The schools that have recognized Sinopharm’s vaccine are Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, the University of Rochester and Lafayette College, according to the announcement. As more schools are expected to follow these seven universities, the new policy has come as relief to Chinese students who plan to return to campus in the U.S. this fall and were inoculated with Sinopharm’s vaccine.
A Chinese student surnamed Chen, who has been admitted to an MBA program at the University of Dartmouth this year and plans to leave for the US in September, told the Global Times that she took the Sinopharm vaccine in March and was disappointed by the school’s policy at that time, when she was informed that Sinopharm shots could not be accepted. According to the updated policy of Chen’s university, students are considered fully vaccinated if they are injected with FDA-approved vaccines or vaccines that have received Emergency Use Listing by the WHO, which means Sinopharm is included.
Normally, other U.S. universities will follow the lead of top schools, Liu Shuangtao, CEO of Perfecting Education, an educational consulting agency for students in the U.S., told the Global Times.
Beyond the actual vaccination-related issues at hand, the actions on the part of the U.S. universities and the Chinese government signal a change from the tone of the Administration of U.S. President Donald Trump who, in banning Chinese travelers from the United States during the early stages of the global pandemic, had an attitude toward the country that Chinese government officials and students interpreted as hostile and antagonistic.
Of the 1.075 million foreign students enrolled in U.S. schools, Chinese students represent 35 percent of the total (for the 2019-2020 school year)—or 373,000 students. Were they counted as their own country, Chinese students would be in the Top 25 countries for overseas tourism to the United States.
Although the uncertainty of the epidemic remains, for Chinese students in the U.S., resuming offline classes can definitely be foreseen in the fall term, Liu said, noting that the agency has seen an increasing number of appointments after the US Embassy and consulates opened visa applications for Chinese students.
Just as the last issue of the INBOUND Report was issued, The Global Times learned from Chinese online flight booking platform Ctrip.com that ticket prices for direct flights from Shanghai to San Francisco in July and August, the peak season for students returning to school, skyrocketed from 6,000 yuan ($931) to 28,000 yuan ($4,348).
Data showed that fares and demand for China-US air routes surged fivefold just one day after the US eased travel bans on Chinese students. Some direct flights from China’s major cities to the US during the peak season are already sold out.
The U.S. Embassy and consulates in China opened visa appointments for Chinese students on May 4, after the U.S. announced easing of travel restrictions for foreign students. In late April, US authorities eased travel bans for Chinese students, announcing that those with academic programs beginning August 1 or later can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic activities. (Click here for the complete Global Times article.)
⦁ Fosun Tourism’s Thomas Cook Sanya Destination Management Company (DMC) officially announced on April 20, that it was integrating its destination resources into Fosun Tourism. Its brands provide one-stop travel services for tourists and enterprises coming to Sanya, Hainan. Thomas Cook, Fosun points out, is an international travel brand with a history of nearly 180 years and the originator of global travel agencies. Fosun acquired the brand in December 2019, three months after Thomas Cook went into bankruptcy and ceased trading on Sept. 23, 2019. Since entering China, Thomas Cook has been committed to win-win cooperation with many “brother brands” under Fosun Travel, including Club Med and Atlantis Sanya.
⦁ May Day increase in domestic travel bodes well for international travel, says Trip.com: Trip.com Group, the mega-travel company and the largest in China has released has released its 2021 May Day Results and Travel Trends, which reveal a strong recovery in China’s domestic travel market during the May Day Holiday (May 1-5). The oft-stated hope of tourism industry leaders in China was that the holiday would kick off a genuine recovery for the Chinese industry.
The Trip.com numbers seem to suggest that the hope became reality. As Trip.com put it, the five-day holiday “unleashed the customer demand for long-distance domestic travel.” According to the data, the total number of bookings for the May Day Holiday showed an increase of 30-plus percent compared to the same period in 2019, and represented a year-on-year increase vs. 2020 of approximately 270 percent.
Trip.com Group accompanied the data on travel volume with a short paper in which it identified the following key trends from China’s May Holiday data which are likely to be indicative of international travel trends once restrictions are lifted:
1. China market sees high-end hotel travel boom: After being cooped up at home during lockdown, many travelers will have found themselves with more disposable income to treat themselves to a luxury trip. While outbound travel is restricted and the consumption stays inbound, high-end leisure travel during the May Day holiday has gained popularity, most evident through hotels with high star ratings and exclusive private tours. According to the data, high star-rated hotels accounted for 40 percent of all the hotel bookings, while beachfront hotels, suburban vacation resorts and theme park hotels became consumers’ favorites.
2. Automobile travel (road trips) is on the rise: Under the country-wide policy for toll-free express-ways during the holiday, the car rental market has seen a significant boom demonstrating that more travelers are looking to explore China via a road trip. Trip.com Group’s car rental peak daily growth reached 330 percent compared to the same period in 2019.
3. Whistle-stop tours record volume of single-day tickets booked: Compared to 2019 records, Trip.com Group’s single-day ticket booking volume, peak daily growth rate, reached 449 percent. Moreover, on May 1st, single-day ticket GMV surge reached new record, followed by another new record set on May 2 nd. Both single-day ticket booking volume and travel transaction volume reached a new high, doubling the historical peak.
4. Increased demand for private tours: Travelers are seeking a safe way to travel in their ‘bubble’ of close family and friends. As a result, private tours have performed well during the May Day holiday, with orders increased by about 230 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Among the destinations, Beijing, Guilin, Guiyang, Sanya, Hohhot, Xi’an, Yinchuan, Zhangjiajie, Lijiang, and Xiamen were the top ten destinations for private tours.
5. Travelers seek diversified experiences: In addition to the above trends, experienced local guides can bring many new perspectives and is why travelers are seeking local travel experiences that help enrich their lives while supporting both local communities and businesses. In the Chinese province of Shaanxi, guided tours helped visitors discover the Terracotta warriors, unveiling first-hand stories of exploration; in Hunan, guides recommend travelers visit the “Baihutang” (White Tiger Sanctum) where only local insiders would previously venture; and in Dunhuang, guides lead the way to camping in the desert.
As of May 4, 2021, the number of local guide bookings during May Day holiday increased by 120 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The top 10 destinations were:
Bo Sun, chief marketing officer at Trip.com Group commented said: “This year’s May Golden Week has been the most popular public holiday in the tourism market since the outbreak of the pandemic, representing the pent-up demand for travel. With the accelerated vaccination rate in the country, the tourism market is anticipated to maintain a strong momentum. It is believed the domestic tourism economy will reignite further in the upcoming summer and National Day holiday in October. We are confident that these Chinese travel trends will be indicative of wider international travel patterns once travel resumes worldwide and we are feeling positive about the safe return and recovery of global travel. (Click here for the complete news release.)
⦁ Know More about live streaming in China: The viewers of a livestream might not be your target audience, and nine other truths brands should know about livestreaming in China. Though the focus of this piece put together by is on luxury retail products, this article by JING DAILY notes some facts that are applicable to the travel sector as well, such as “If the target audience hasn’t heard of the brand before the livestream, there’s only a low chance that they will buy the goods in three minutes, especially for luxury goods with relatively high prices.” Learn more here.