Skift Take

As the Chinese travel market embraces personalization, technology integration, and enhanced experiences, the industry needs to adjust to this ever-changing landscape.

Think China’s travel recovery is “sluggish?” Don’t say that to Calvin Chu, managing director, international vacation business at Alibaba’s Fliggy.

Outbound travel is on the rise, he said and Fliggy has observed visa services sales topping 2019 levels, signifying the resurgence of wanderlust among Chinese tourists.

Flight bookings indicate a heightened interest in destinations within a four-hour flight range from major Chinese cities.

“The enthusiasm is clearly rekindling for Chinese travelers, who have historically played a substantial role in global outbound travel. The only concern now is for supply to pick up,” Chu said.

Chinese Tourists Are Traveling

Chinese tourists are opting to stay closer to home and that’s largely due to the ease of travel within the country, Chu said.

“Whether it’s road trips or high-speed railways, transportation in the country has never been more accessible,” said Chu.

He pointed out that while the desire to explore longer distances still lingers, the challenge is limited flight capacity for long-haul destinations.

Fliggy noted a double-digit growth from 2019 in the total value of hotel and flight bookings within China, during the recent Golden Week, a prominent holiday period in China.

The number of people who made bookings for international flights reached a peak for the year, while in the month leading up to the holiday, the total value of visa application service transactions through Fliggy had a remarkable increase of over 70% compared to the month leading up to this year’s Labor Day holiday.

China’s recent Golden Week travel has also provided insights into the evolving preferences.

Chu pointed out four significant trends:

  • Rise in Independent Travel: Young people increasingly favor independent travel over traditional group tours. Destinations such as the Maldives, Luxembourg, French Polynesia, Argentina, Egypt, and Kenya have all experienced strong growth in total fulfilled transaction volumes.
  • Interest in Long-Haul Destinations: Some long-haul destinations are attracting Chinese travelers, including: Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iceland, and Egypt.
  • Quality-Focused Travel: Travelers are seeking personalized, emotionally resonant experiences, whether it’s surfing, skiing, dining, or exploring local handicrafts. On Fliggy’s platform, the number of bookings for four- and five-star hotels during Golden Week increased by over 50% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Asian Games Stimulus: Major events like the Asian Games are stimulating travel to specific locations, drawing a considerable number of young travelers.

Quality Over Quantity

Chu said there’s a shift in the mindset of Chinese travelers: They now emphasize the quality of their travel experiences, instead of chasing the sheer number of destinations visited.

“Personalization and local immersion are paramount, often leading to customized trips that delve deeper into cultural experiences,” he said. 

Several drivers are responsible for the ongoing recovery and the renewed interest in travel. A growing segment of the population is now more willing to allocate a significant portion of their budgets to travel experiences.

Younger individuals, particularly those born after 1995, who have saved money and gained work experience, are eager to explore foreign destinations in a personalized manner.

More than 60% of Fliggy’s users are millennials and Gen Z.

Enhancing Digital Travel Experiences

Being enthusiastic about new technologies, Chu said.

AI can significantly enhance business efficiency by assisting staff in managing extensive customer inquiries, allowing them to channel their efforts into crafting superior products and delivering improved customer service.

Chu said Fliggy is expanding its offerings to merchants, including online consulting and training courses. The traditional collaboration model is evolving to offer dedicated support to businesses.

“We’re aware that numerous travel businesses still primarily operate offline and may lack experience in managing an online storefront. To support these business partners, we have established a specialized team dedicated to assisting with suppliers and managing marketing and sales functions, allowing them to concentrate on order fulfilment,” Chu said.


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Tags: alibaba, artificial intelligence, asia monthly, china outbound, coronavirus recovery, digital distribution, fliggy, gen z, golden week

Photo credit: Chinese travelers now emphasize the quality of their travel experiences, instead of chasing the sheer number of destinations visited. Chris Feser / Flickr

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