Outbound tourism to thrive in 2023 with more Southeast Asian countries set to welcome Chinese tourists
Published: Jan 25, 2023 04:58 PM Updated: Jan 25, 2023 08:48 PM
Children interact with a lion dance performer at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia on Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo by Dicky Bisinglasi/Xinhua)

Children interact with a lion dance performer at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia on Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo by Dicky Bisinglasi/Xinhua)

Outbound tourism bookings during the Spring Festival holidays has seen a boom following the country optimizing COVID-19 rules and is expected to resume pilot outbound group tours from February 6 with the outbound air tickets booking recorded a fourfold increase on year-on-year basis. 

Countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam warmly welcomed Chinese tourists, for example, by organizing local officials to hold a welcome ceremony at the airport, presenting flowers and performing dance, and even offering red packet of lucky money to Chinese tourists. 

Chinese travel agencies and online tour operators will be able to restart pilot outbound group tours and provide travelers with airline and hotel packages from February 6, according to notice issued by Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism on January 20.

The optimized measures have been well received by many Chinese visitors and several online travel agencies have observed a significant resurgence in outbound travel during the Spring Festival.

In the first four day into the Spring Festival holidays, the number of outbound air tickets booked by mainland tourists increased over four fold year-on-year, and the number of outbound hotel bookings surged by more than two times year-on-year, the Global Times learned from Chinese online travel platform 

According to online travel platform Fliggy, bookings of outbound travel-related products in 33 countries and regions have more than doubled year-on-year during the Spring Festival, according to the data as of Friday night. 

Among them, bookings for Thailand, Maldives and New Zealand have increased more than 10 times year-on-year, according to the platform.

20 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba, and Argentina, are designated pilot destinations for outbound group tours, according to the notice of the ministry.

The Philippines and Indonesia are among the countries that held grand ceremonies to welcome the first arrivals of Chinese tourists after the Chinese government optimized its COVID-19 rules and is expected to see recovery of the outbound tourism industry in 2023.

On Tuesday, the third day into the Chinese New Year, the Philippine Department of Tourism held a grand ceremony at Manila International Airport to welcome nearly 200 Chinese tourists.

"The Philippines is open and ready to welcome our friends from China," said Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco while receiving hundreds of Chinese tourists who arrived in Manila Tuesday afternoon.

Frasco said the arrival of these people aboard a commercial flight "signals a very auspicious start" to the Chinese New Year, adding her country, famous for world-renowned pristine beaches, is anticipating more tourists from China.

"Our intention is not only to regain but to exceed our pre-pandemic numbers, knowing how the relationship between the Philippines and China will only further improve in the years to come," Frasco added.

The growing demand for people-to-people exchanges in trade and tourism between China and the Philippines will accelerate the resumption of round-trip flights between the two countries, according to Xiamen Airlines, which administered the flight.

Xiamen Airlines plans to continue to increase flights to Manila, including resuming Quanzhou-Manila flights around mid-to-late February and increase the number of flights from Manila to Xiamen, Southeast China’s Fujian Province in March, the airline operator told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Indonesia's Bali also welcomed back the first charter flight of Chinese tourists on Sunday.

Local traditional songs and dances welcomed Chinese tourists, and one of them was presented with a flower garland by the governor of Bali, I Wayan Koster.

"I'm convinced Bali tourism will thrive again with the advent of these Chinese tourists. China has been the largest source of tourists to Bali for many years, and the number of Chinese tourists visiting Bali reached as high as 1.4 million," said Koster.

Indonesia is planning more direct flights between the country and China as well as more social media campaigns to attract Chinese tourists to Bali to revive its tourism industry, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

The Southeast Asian country will enable direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, city in South China’s Guangdong Province, to Denpasar and intensify its TikTok campaign for the top holiday destination, the media report said.

A flight carrying Chinese tourists from Chengdu, city of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, landed at Cam Ranh international airport in Vietnam on Monday morning, the second day into the Chinese New Year, which was also the first flight carrying Chinese tourists to the country after the COVID-19 outbreak emerged about three years ago, local media reported on Tuesday. 

Every passenger received flowers and a red packet of lucky money at the welcome ceremony, according to local media reports.  

Chinese tourists made 155 million outbound international trips in 2019, with consumption abroad by China's outbound tourists exceeding $133.8 billion, according to the Xinhua News Agency.