It's eye-catching that Jane Sun of Trip.com believes that China's remote and hybrid working arrangements are helping domestic leisure travel to recover. That echoes predictions from Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky and others about how hybrid working may boost travel for some time to come.
China’s domestic leisure travel demand will probably recover in full soon thanks in part to the added flexibility of remote working, Trip.com CEO Jane Sun said this week.
“Working from home has increased productivity for industry,” Sun said. The long-term effect of remote working will be to “enable customers to spend more time on leisure travel,” Sun predicted.
“Domestic travel has pretty much recovered nicely,” Sun said. The comments echoed ones Sun made late last month when she said that national corporate travel booked through her company’s services is now ahead of pre-pandemic levels by approximately 20 percent.
The top boss of China’s largest online travel agency conglomerate made the comments during an online event late Monday run by the airline-owned ATPCO, formerly known as the Airline Tariff Publishing Company.
The interview didn’t address some analysts’ concerns that Asia’s anchor economy may be at risk of entering a double-dip recession. Some analysts worry China may face an energy crisis, meaning power utilities may have maxed out their ability to serve industrial demand. Others worry about financial concerns related to some highly leveraged companies exposed to a potential real estate bubble.
Outbound Chinese Travelers Will Return
Outbound Chinese travel will return, Sun forecast on Monday while citing progress on vaccination rates in the country and other metrics.
“We see pent-up demand [for cross-border travel] based on search results,” Sun said.
A second way Trip.com tracks latent demand for international travel is by running a “travel in the cloud” program that offers audiovisual teasers and previews of overseas destinations. Online traffic for these travel marketing campaigns remains high despite China having essentially paused cross-border travel at the moment.
Looking further ahead, Sun sees steady growth for Trip.com Group because of demographic trends. By 2025, China will have more passport holders than the U.S. will have citizens, for example. Sentiment data shows Chinese interest in long-haul travel remains alive and well, as Skift recently reported.
Some industry observers have been imagining the travel sector without outbound Chinese tourists, as Skift noted last month.
Sun said Chinese travelers would represent the fastest-growing segment in the global tourism market post-pandemic. Countries can’t afford to ignore Chinese tourists can’t ignore these tourists because they have a track record of spending.
“Our observation is that Chinese travelers, in particular, are very fond of buying local products,” Sun said.
Sun asked other countries to make it easier for Chinese citizens to apply for visitors to maximize the post-pandemic boom. Moving manual processes online and reducing the time needed for approval were important actions to take, Sun said. Consumers in China and elsewhere will be making travel decisions in shorter timeframes than they did in the past as the pandemic eases, so visa processing times need to speed up.
Sun said Trip.com Group has consultants available to help destinations tourism marketing organizations worldwide take other steps to help them grab their fair share of the Chinese tourism recovery.
Supporting Gender Diversity in Travel
As a side note, Sun noted that more than half of Trip.com Group’s workforce are women, which is roughly double the average of female gender representation in Silicon Valley. More than 40 percent of middle managers or women, and more than a third of the executives are female.
“We do a lot to promote gender equality and female empowerment,” Sun said, citing the company’s benefits and policies that support motherhood and ongoing career training and supplemental education, such as Ph.D. programs. Trip.com Group also will help women to freeze their eggs when wishing to delay parenthood.
“Trip.com is the first company and only company in China to offer this policy, which is very progressive,” Sun said.
Sun was interviewed by Alex Zoghlin, who became president and CEO of ATPCO earlier this year.
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Photo credit: Chinese free independent travelers exploring Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Switzerland Tourism. Photo courtesy of Switzerland Tourism