The uncertainty over the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has put a palpable “hold” on international travel throughout the world. And even though China’s government has been more aggressive than most in imposing measures aimed at containing COVID, and with the numbers and public policy that actually encourages domestic travel within the country, the news outlets and channels of distribution that cover tourism-related matters seem to be languishing on the back of a Pushmi-Pullyu: upbeat news about the industry during one news cycle gives way to a tug in the other direction the following week.
Prior to the unbelievable speed with which the omicron variant swept throughout major travel routes and points of connection, the general consensus of those who follow China’s outbound travel industry was this: travel of all types would continue to languish until after the Winter Olympics in February in Beijing or National Labor Day on May 1st, which normally lasts three days. Unfortunately, employees usually have to make up two of these three days on a later weekend. The situation doesn’t make clear just what kind of travel intentions and travel packages are gaining favor among the Chinese.
So, INBOUND had a conversation about the matter with Z.J. Tong, a Chicago-based top marketer, blogger and popular travel influencer in China. He told us, “It’s a million-dollar question regarding the reopening of Chinese inbound market”
“Currently, what stops Chinese from outbound travel is that when they go back to China, there is a minimum 14 + 7-day quarantine requirement,” he noted, explaining that “China has done significantly well in keeping the virus infection rate low due to tough quarantine measures.”
“Many of us thought or at least hoped that after the Winter Olympics, which take place Feb. 4-20, 2022 in Beijing, the Chinese government might loosen the quarantine requirement. But the spreading of the recent omicron variant has further complicated the situation,” he added.
On the positive side—the student market thrives: Tong pointed out that “one stable market is the Chinese student market that are already in the U.S., which despite the decrease, remains around 310,000,” and that “many of the U.S. destinations should have seen a surge of Chinese student travelers during this winter break because they could not go back to China as they normally would have done.”
He said, “The student market will also draw large number of FIT family members to visit or attend graduation when the travel resumes. I have done live-streaming campus tours at nearly 40 universities across the country since July, drawing as many as 167,000 viewers at a couple of schools, which is much higher than when I do live-streaming at any attractions. It demonstrated the top interests in the Chinese market at the moment. Many DMOs don’t consider universities as attractions, but to the Chinese market, they are.”
Since the pandemic started, Tong pointed out that his company, China Pro Marketing Partners “pivoted to develop travel influencer accounts for the Chinese market,” adding, “we now have over 120,000 followers across several platforms. I plan to continue doing campus live-streaming tours after the new year and I’m looking for DMO and university partners who are also looking to outreach to Chinese student market.”
Click here for an INBOUND article last month that has more detail on the international student market.