China's domestic travel is on the way back. Outbound travel will take a little longer.
Travel bookings in China have recovered to pre-pandemic levels after being suppressed last year by zero-COVID policies, and are set to boom for the upcoming May Day holiday, according to data from popular booking apps.
Travel and restaurant booking app Meituan said its bookings for the upcoming May Day holiday from April 29-May 3 had reached a five-year high by the start of this week.
The five-day May holiday is traditionally one of China’s busiest tourist seasons as spring moves into summer. Tourist spending and travel volumes were hit heavily last year by China’s zero-COVID policy to stop the spread of the virus.
Domestic trips made during the holiday in 2021 reached 230 million, a record high, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. But the number dropped 43% to 160 million last year.
“The backlog of consumer travel demand since February is expected to be released during May Day holiday. Major domestic tourist cities and vacation destinations are expected to benefit from this,” said Fang Zeqian, an industry analyst at Trip.com.
The app data is a bright spot for the consumer industry which is still struggling to recover as people tighten their budgets due to worries over the slowing economy and employment.
Jin Hui, CEO of Chinese hotel chains operator H World Group that operates more than 8,500 hotels, said COVID had brought significant changes to people’s shopping habits.
“In the past, when people have money, they will buy clothes and bags,” Jin said. “Today more people are willing to spend on experiences, on holidays and leisure time.”
“The pandemic made people learn that we should enjoy life instead of living in uncertainties.”
(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh Editing by Peter Graff)
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Photo credit: An image of Tianjin, China. Tongcheng Travel seeks to be popular among Generation Z travelers. Source: Unsplash/Jane Marc Jane Marc / Unsplash