Chinese airlines increase domestic flights amid summer travel peak
Industry ‘cautiously optimistic’ about full tourism recovery
Published: Jul 03, 2022 07:37 PM

Aerial photo taken on May 25, 2022 shows the scenery of Sanwan canal scenic area in Yangzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. Located in Sanwan section of the canal in Yangzhou, the scenic area has become a new tourist attraction since its opening to public in 2017.(Photo: Xinhua)

Aerial photo taken on May 25, 2022 shows the scenery of Sanwan canal scenic area in Yangzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province. (Photo: Xinhua)

As domestic airlines gradually resume flights between Shanghai and Beijing after disruptions posed by recent COVID-19 outbreaks, inquiries and bookings for travel products have surged in recent days, signaling the start of a solid summer travel peak, industry insiders and experts told the Global Times. 

Starting from Saturday, flights between Shanghai and Beijing have been gradually increasing. For example, China Eastern Airlines have arranged 11 flights for Tuesday, compared with ten on Monday and nine on Sunday. 

Juneyao Airlines also announced that it will add about a dozen domestic flights in addition to restoring flights in and out of Shanghai, as well as increase international flights to meet rising demand coinciding with the summer peak season, the company said in a statement it sent to the Global Times. 

China Southern Airlines also plans to add one return flight from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing Daxing International Airport from Sunday to Friday.

Flights between Shanghai and Beijing, traditional bedrock for many airlines, were severely impacted after Shanghai adopted a closed-loop management in April amid the severe outbreak of COVID-19. From April to June, only one flight was operational each day on average between Shanghai and Beijing, according to a China Media Group report. 



As travel gradually returns to normalcy, there are increasing signs that the long suppressed domestic air travel sector is starting to rebound and that the sector could be on the brink of enjoying a bumper summer travel peak, some observers noted.

The Shanghai-based travel agent Spring Tour recently arranged a tour group of 22 tourists from Shanghai to Northwest China's Gansu Province, the first cross-provincial travel group since the epidemic hit Shanghai earlier this year. 

Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of China Spring Tour, told the Global Times on Sunday that their telephone inquiries and orders for travel products have surged several fold compared with before June 20. 

"Business was very difficult between late March and mid-June, but now the reservations are rising gradually," as anti-epidemic restrictions on travel have been relaxed in many places across the country, Zhou said. 

Experts and industry insiders remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the domestic tourism industry, as they pointed out that people have pent up demand for long-distance travel despite risks of COVID-19.

"The return of a summer travel peak is certain. But the sporadic outbreak of COVID-19 in different spots will still bring some pressure to the resumption of summer tourism," Bo Wenxi, chief economist at wealth management firm IPG China, told the Global Times on Sunday. He predicted that China's tourism income is expected to fall by about 20 percent compared with last summer. 

Zhou also shared a similar viewpoint, saying that the longer people are confined to their homes on the grounds of epidemic prevention, the "thirstier" they will become for long-distance travel. 

"Although cross-provincial travel restrictions has now been narrowed to the county level, many people still have worries about being trapped away from home if COVID19 breaks out suddenly," she noted. 

Still, many travel companies are taking action to make good use of the window of opportunity. China Railway Urumqi Group, for example, revealed that Xinjiang's railway system is expected to operate two tourism trains in July, as well as multiple special trains for tours around northern and southern Xinjiang, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

A luxury travel train named Hulunbuir will also start operation soon, domestic news outlet reported. 
Yuan Shuai, deputy secretary-general of the rural revitalization and construction committee under China Culture Administration Association, told the Global Times that China's tourism companies should break through traditional business operation models, as the country's tourism has stepped into a new era with a renewed demand for product segmentation and increased customization. 

China should push construction of regional tourism cooperation systems, speed up pushing tourism formats standardization, as well as strengthen integration between culture and tourism, Yuan said.