Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

Chinese Shift from Short Holidays to Plan Longer Breaks for Labor Day

1 year ago

Outbound travel from mainland China during the Labor Day holiday period reached a three-year high this year, according to data released by travel technology company Travelport.

Also, unlike the rest of the year, the Labor Day period shows a notable increase in the length of travel with holidays lasting longer than 10 days, which could explain the popularity of long-haul destinations during this time.

Among the top 10 destinations during this period, long-haul stops like the UK and Canada have gained popularity, with the U.S. claiming the second spot, Travelport data showed.

Travel bookings for the Labor Day period increased 470 percent this year compared to 2022, while outbound bookings from mainland China in the first quarter increased by 331 percent compared to last year, said Travelport

Labor Day in China, which falls on May 1, is an annual public holiday. The period has been expanded to include a three-day break, making it one of the most popular times of the year for travel.

April 24 through May 7 (the week of Labor Day and the week prior) tend to be the most ideal dates for travelers to get away.

The five-day break starting Saturday will be the first long public holiday for Chinese travelers since the Lunar New Year.

Travelport observed that for the rest of the year, tourists from mainland China are taking shorter holidays as most trips span between two and four days.

As a result, Hong Kong and Macau are the top two destinations this year for which mainland Chinese travelers have made the highest number of bookings, according to Travelport.

According to the South China Morning Post, hotel room rates in Hong Kong have risen significantly in anticipation of the upcoming Labour Day holiday, even though reservations remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors to Macau in March increased by 271 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching 1,956,867, according to the Statistics and Census Service.

The majority of visitors, 1,242,358, were from Mainland China. From January to March, there were 4,948,358 arrivals with the average length of stay remaining stable at 1.2 days.

Emphasizing the trend for shorter trips, Travelport’s data also revealed that of all the flight options available from mainland China, the majority (71 percent) are bound for Asia Pacific.

Low Flight Capacity

China is currently facing challenges with flight capacity. A sentiment echoed by Trip.com Group while announcing its fourth quarterly results.

Even as Chinese carriers raised international capacity by 44 percent in April, adding 935,000 seats between March and April, the current international airline capacity is only 37 percent of what it was in April 2019, according to airline data firm OAG.

Moreover, international airline capacity constitutes only 4 percent of all Chinese airline capacity.

On December 27, when China made its much-anticipated announcement removing the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers, outbound flight bookings from mainland China increased by 247 percent when compared to the same day the previous month, Travelport noted.

Pent-up demand for outbound travel from mainland China is massive, with 40 percent of respondents in a McKinsey survey wanting to travel and prioritize international destinations for their next trip.

China has been the largest source market in the world for outbound tourism since 2012.

Chinese tourists made 166 million outbound international trips in 2019, spending $277 billion on global tourism.

Travel Technology

AI Firm Buys Legacy Hong Kong Travel Agency in More Signs of Life for China Travel

1 year ago

Abel Zhao, co-founder & CEO of FreeD Group, a technology innovator that specializes in proprietary enterprise application solutions, has acquired 75-year-old Connexus Travel from the parent company of Cathay Pacific, Swire Group. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 2015, FreeD Group is a travel technology startup offering proprietary SaaS solutions for sales and marketing. The company uses AI [artificial intelligence], big data and machine learning technologies to deliver end-to-end digital solutions connecting platforms, brands and service providers.

“We see tremendous growth potential for Connexus because of its long history of excellent services and the synergies that will be generated between Connexus and FreedD,” said Zhao in the press release. “The positive outcomes we envisage include business opportunities spanning travel services, e-commerce, marketing services and brand loyalty programs, all of which will be underpinned by a comprehensive range of digitalized services and solutions. Ultimately, we anticipate Connexus Travel to follow in the footsteps of FreeD Group and transform into a global brand.”

Headquartered in Hong Kong, FreeD has over 250 professionals from 22 different regions across the globe and operates in more than 10 markets globally. FreeD clients and partners include major names such as Google, BMW, FIFA World Cup, Samsung, China Mobile and LG.

The startup raised a $15 million Series B in June 2022, led by Daiwa ACA APAC Growth Fund and ACA Partners Pte. Ltd. Investors also included Hong Kong property developer Chinachem Group, Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks’ Corporate Venture Capital Fund, Radiant Tech Ventures and startup accelerator SOSV’s Select Fund.

The acquisition of Connexus Travel follows the startup’s strategy for targeting expansion in Seoul and Shanghai. Established in 1948, Connexus Travel was to first travel management company (TMC) to be registered in Hong Kong, offering services from hotel and travel packages to ticket bookings and visa applications for both domestic and foreign tourists. The company has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and obtained a local licence in Beijing in 2009. After 70 years of operation, Connexus Travel has become a trusted name for corporate, leisure and MICE travel.

“We will leverage our position as a market leader and the development plans with FreeD to expand our services not only in Hong Kong and China, but also to the markets where FreeD currently operates,” said Eric Lau, general manager of Connexus Travel.

The startup also plans to expand its digital solutions to reach the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

Tourism

Hong Kong Finally Removes Restrictions on Inbound Arrivals Who Test Negative

1 year ago

After a whole lot of “will they, won’t they,” Hong Kong has finally announced that visitors to the destination would no longer be subject to home monitoring for three days.

Inbound travelers testing negative upon arrival would be allowed to move freely around the city from Wednesday onwards.

The city state has finally ended its much-criticised “0+3” policy where even passengers testing negative are issued an amber code on the LeaveHomeSafe health app and are not allowed to enter restaurants, gyms and beauty parlours during the first three days.

People would also no longer be required to scan QR codes using the health app while entering venues around the city. 

“Any measures that we introduce to deal with Covid is based on actual figures, data and risk assessment,” Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.

Cheering the news that comes as relief for all the restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms and offices around Hong Kong, Girish Jhunjhunwala, founder and chief executive of Ovolo Hotels mentioned on social media, “The announcement serves as a definitive step towards the recovery of the local hospitality and tourism industry, and therefore, Hong Kong’s economy entirely.” 

However, arrivals would still need to take a polymerase chain reaction test at the airport and on their third day in the city, and a rapid antigen test for five days.

Last week, while cutting the period for inbound arrivals to take daily rapid antigen tests from seven days to five days, Hong Kong authorities had announced that the outdoor mask mandate and other anti-epidemic measures would continue till December 28.

While the goal is to allow normal cross-border travel as soon as possible, Lee Ka-chiu said that Hong Kong would be clooking at data and the risks involved to decide on its next move.

Business Travel

Agoda Adds Fintech Partners Ahead of Asia’s Full-Scale Reopening

1 year ago

Travel platform Agoda has been pushing ahead with a series of new fintech partnerships, with its eye on Asia’s corporate travel recovery.

Agoda, which is part of Bookings Holdings, recently started working with Singapore’s global payment platform Sunrate, and is also now collaborating with Australia’s Airwallex to target business travelers in Hong Kong.

The deal with Sunrate will see it integrate its own online travel solution into Agoda. Sunrate helps online travel agencies support single and multiple corporate card payments for flights and accommodation, and lets users set spend limits and define usage.

Airwallex, which uses technology to help reduce the fees charged for processing overseas transactions, is partnering with Agoda to make travel planning easier for corporate customers in Hong Kong. Airwallex Hong Kong customers get discounts and cashback on accommodation bookings using their Airwallex Borderless Cards.

The company said 84 percent of its Hong Kong business clients plan to take a business trip in the next 6 months.

The partnerships come as China and Hong Kong gradually lift their travel restrictions. A day after China announced changes to its controversial zero-Covid policy, Hong Kong said inbound arrivals would only need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests for five days, instead of seven days.

“It is great to see businesses in Hong Kong recover from the pandemic, and to see so many that are eager to travel again,” said Giuliana Riitano, Asia Pacific market director of Agoda. “For many, their next business trip may be the first time they have traveled in a very long time.”

Tourism

Hong Kong Eases Testing for Inbound Arrivals

1 year ago

A day after China announced some major changes to its controversial zero-Covid policy, Hong Kong on Thursday announced that inbound arrivals would need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests for five days, instead of seven days.

However, international travelers coming into the city would still need to take a polymerase chain reaction test on landing and on the third day and remain in home isolation for three days with limited movement.

Hong Kong has also shortened the isolation period for Covid-19 patients and their close contacts to five days from seven days, provided they test negative on the fourth and fifth day.

This rule would also be applicable for unvaccinated people, who were earlier required to spend 14 days in quarantine.

However, the outdoor mask mandate and other anti-epidemic measures will continue to stay for the next two weeks till December 28.

“Over the last week the number of daily infections has still been increasing and Wednesday’s figure of 14,373 has been a record high,” Hong Kong authorities said in a press briefing.

With Christmas and New year round the corner, health undersecretary, Dr Libby Lee Ha-yun, said there will be immense pressure on healthcare facilities as result of which the government does not look to relax the anti-epidemic measures further for now.

“We are reviewing our strategies based on science, targeted anti-epidemic measures, proper management of risks as well as citizen-focused facilitation,” authorities said during the press briefing.

Airlines

Cathay Pacific Begins Pandemic Bounce Back

2 years ago

Cathay Pacific Airways, after worries that Hong Kong’s strict Covid rules could doom the airline, is beginning its post-pandemic bounce back as the Chinese special administrative region eases its border rules.

The Oneworld alliance carrier will resume a third of its 2019 capacity by the end of the year, Cathay said Monday. That means resuming about 3,000 daily flights between the end of October and year end. And, as travel is expected to surge back, 70 percent of its pre-crisis capacity by the end of 2023. The carrier anticipates a full recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.

“Our recovery trajectory is in line with other carriers that don’t benefit from a domestic market in terms of the time taken since borders began to open,” Cathay CEO Augustus Tang said. He added, citing the recovery challenges other airlines have experienced, that Cathay has “sufficient pilots, cabin crew and operational employees” to support its capacity recovery plans.

Cathay will return to Bali, Bangalore, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Tokyo Haneda, Xi’an, and Zurich, and add back flights in other markets, in the fourth quarter, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

cathay pacific august 2019 Thomas Peter reuters
(REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Airlines

Cathay Pacific Appoints Customer Chief Ronald Lam as New CEO

2 years ago

Cathay Pacific announced on Wednesday that CEO Augustus Tan would be stepping down on December 31 and chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam would succeed him.

Even after appointed the CEO of Catahay Pacific, the airline has said Lam would continue to serve as chair of HK Express, Cathay’s low-cost subsidiary.

Lam was appointed chief customer and commercial officer in 2019. He joined the Cathay Pacific Group as a management trainee in 1996 and has since held a number of senior leadership roles in Hong Kong and overseas, including CEO of HK Express.

As the airline looks to increase its passenger flight capacity and strengthen connectivity, Lam would lead the airline through its post-Covid recovery and the introduction of the three-runway system at Hong Kong International Airport, Patrick Healy, chair of Cathay Pacific Group, said in a press statement.

“The company’s dual-brand strategy comprising Cathay Pacific as a premium full-service airline and HK Express as a wholly owned low-cost carrier have positioned it well to take advantage of the recovery and continue contributing to the long-term success of the Hong Kong hub,” Healy said.

Healy also spoke of Tang’s critical role in the airline’s restructuring in 2020 and its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Releasing its September figures, the airline has said that it would continue to add more flights in the coming months.

In addition to the flight sectors previously scheduled for November and December, the airline had announced that it would be adding more than half a million seats with an increase of around 700 sectors in November and 1,200 in December.

Japan and London Heathrow sectors would be witnessing a substantial increase in passenger flights in November and December, the airline had said.

In another board reshuffle announced Wednesday, Lavinia Lau will replace Lam as the chief customer and commercial officer from January 1 and Alexander McGowan will replace Gregory Hughes as chief operations and service delivery officer, effective April 1.

Tourism

Hong Kong to End Hotel Quarantine From September 26

2 years ago

Inbound arrivals to Hong Kong will not be required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine from September 26.

Chief Executive John Lee made an announcement on Friday marking an end to some of the strictest restrictions imposed by a country during the pandemic.

Hong Kong has also replaced the requirement of a pre-arrival polymerase chain reaction test with a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of departure.

Inbound arrivals would still need to take a test at the airport but unlike earlier where they had to wait for the results, this would be more of a test-and-go measure and travelers would also be able to take public transport from the airport.

However, they would be required to self-monitor at home for three days and would not be able to dine in at restaurants and visit bars. On days 4 and 6, travellers would need to take mandatory polymerase chain reaction tests.

One of the last few destinations that still follows a stringent Covid policy for inbound arrivals, Hong Kong has been progressively easing restrictions, the pace of which quickened after Lee took charge as the city chief.

Daily Covid cases in Hong have now fallen below 6000.

Lo Chung-mau, the city’s health chief, mentioned that the shortening of the quarantine period in August to three days in a hotel and four at home had resulted in a 20 percent increase in inbound arrivals.

However, speaking at an aviation conference in Qatar on Wednesday, Willie Walsh, director general of International Air Transport Association, said that the stringent Covid policies have resulted in Hong Kong losing its position as a global aviation hub.

A once-vibrant financial hub of Asia, pressure had been mounting on the Hong Kong government to fully reopen its international borders. 

On Thursday, Japan announced its decision to reopen to mass tourism from next month. Asian destinations will surely be competing with each other to bring back tourists into the country and help resurrect the economy.

Tourism

Hong Kong Finally Looks to Scrap Hotel Quarantine Policy

2 years ago

As Hong Kong leaders acknowledge how stringent Covid policies have hammered the destination’s competitiveness, the government might soon be on its way to scrap the controversial hotel quarantine policy for inbound travelers.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee said an announcement was impending and the destination would look to allow more activities in an orderly manner.

“I’m conscious of the need to maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness by ensuring that we have a good connectivity,” Lee said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “We will be announcing the measures once we’ve made the decision about what we’re going to do.”

While doing its best to control Covid-19, Lee said, the Hong Kong government would aim to have maximum connection with the international world and reduce inconvenience for inbound arrivals.

The country’s strict Covid rules have led to the cancellation of international events like the Hong Kong Marathon and the dragon boat race that moved to Thailand.

Noting that the convenience of cross-border travel is the core of restoring economic momentum, Paul Chan, the financial secretary of Hong Kong, also admitted that the current restrictions may discourage people from coming to Hong Kong.

The city is currently reporting around 6100 cases a day. 

Hong Kong is one of the last few destinations that still follows a stringent Covid policy for inbound arrivals requiring them to quarantine in a hotel for three days followed by four days of self-monitoring. Inbound arrivals are also required to carry a negative result proof of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken 48 hours before boarding.

Having assumed office since July 1, Lee has been working to ease the city’s isolation, reconnecting Hong Kong with the rest of the world.

Immediately after taking charge, Lee ended a controversial rule that banned individual flights if they brought in passengers infected with the coronavirus. In August, he shortened the Covid-19 hotel quarantine period for all arrivals to three days from seven.

Two weeks ago, the Hong Kong government also lifted rules requiring passenger crew to quarantine in a hotel for three days on return to the city.