Key Chinese travel industry figure has been meeting with peers abroad.
No one has been able, really, to forecast when levels of outbound international travel from China will re-start and return to 2019 levels. For several months now, the conventional wisdom on the matter had been that a resumption of travel might take place after the national Labor Day holiday, which will run from April 30 through May 4, after incorporating a weekend pair of days into the celebration.
But then, no one anticipated the incredible speed with which the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has spread though all continents and most countries. (China reported its first case of the variant on Monday, December 13). As have other nations, the Chinese government launched an aggressive campaign to contain the variant.
While the Omicron development is certainly not positive news for the country’s outbound tourism industry, it may have obscured what could be described as an upbeat message from one of the most influential leaders the industry— James Liang Jianzhang, chairman and founder of China’s leading travel agency Ctrip. At a public forum, he said that Asian countries are likely to resume international travel in the following three months while China, which is more cautious, is estimated to restart it six months later after learning experiences from other countries.
Liang’s presentation at the forum, as reported by the Global Times, also had these messages:
⦁ The airline market in Europe has bounced back to about 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels and is likely to fully reach 2019 numbers by summer, 2022.
⦁ The average weekly load factor in the U.S. reached to around 80 percent in October.
⦁ The international travel market outside Asia has recovered to about half of pre-pandemic levels, Liang pointed out.
⦁ And, in what has to be news to everyone who follows these matters, Liang mentioned he recently spent months traveling around the world, visiting and having meetings with tourism officials of the U.S., the UK, Austria, Spain and Portugal. They are eagerly looking forward to the return of Asian tourists, especially those from China.
Background Note: While China and the United States are experiencing conflicts over other matters of policy and governance, the tourism industry seems to be one of those “hands off” issues on which there is cooperation and agreement.
For instance, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism in early June released the 14th five-year plan for the development of various sectors, laying out the overall requirements, development goals, major tasks and measures for the 2021-2025 period. This took place as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hold its 20th National Party Congress in October 2022.
It was an earlier quinquennial Congress that approved economic policies designed to encourage Chinese people to spend on travel as one way of stimulating spending and being, in effect, an engine for the country’s economy.
Over the past 10 years or so, the nation has updated and improved much of its tourism infrastructure by building new airports and tourism support facilities.
In the meantime, a beleaguered U.S. inbound tourism industry awaits, and prepares for, travel to the USA from China to resume.