Outbound travel bookings soar by 640% over Spring Festival
Southeast Asia top overseas destination for Chinese tourists
Published: Jan 27, 2023 10:25 PM
Two Chinese tourists and local dancers pose for photos at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, Jan 22, 2023. Photo:Xinhua

Two Chinese tourists and local dancers pose for photos at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, Jan 22, 2023. Photo:Xinhua

Outbound travel bookings soared by 640 percent over the weeklong Spring Festival holidays, industry data showed Friday, as Chinese tourists celebrate the first unrestricted annual vacation since the COVID-19 epidemic erupted. 

Southeast Asian destinations, famed for their rich tourism resources and hospitality, were the biggest winners, seeing a stellar start to the year, and showing China's consumption recovery to be a silver lining amid mounting global recession fears.

As the country downgraded its COVID-19 management from Class A to Class B earlier in January, a portion of domestic passengers opted to spend the Spring Festival overseas, while scores of travelers flooded domestic tourist attractions.

As a result, outbound travel bookings posted a surge of 640 percent year-on-year over the entirety of the holiday, online travel agency Group said Friday in a report sent to the Global Times.

More specifically, Chinese mainland passengers' overseas hotel bookings were up by more than four times over the holiday from the year before, while cross-border flight bookings also saw a more than fourfold rise, according to the report.

In a sign of the pent-up travel demand, pre-bookings for domestic attractions surged 3.2 times during the Spring Festival, while that for overseas attractions jumped over 60 percent year-on-year.

Rich in tourism resources including sunshine, beaches and gourmet food, Southeast Asia was shown to have benefited most from the outbound travel reopening, buoyed by its genuine hospitality to capitalize on China's consumption recovery, as the Chinese economy at large swiftly emerges from the prolonged epidemic.

On January 22, a chartered flight carrying 210 Chinese tourists from Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, landed at Bali airport. It marked the first direct flight from China to Bali since the start of the pandemic. 

A welcome ceremony was held at the airport by the Indonesian tourism ministry and the Bali provincial government to greet the Chinese tourists.

The Southeast Asian country has set a target of more than 250,000 travelers from China this year, Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno revealed Tuesday at a press conference, according to Xinhua.

In the Philippines, about 190 visitors from Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province, who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday, the third day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, were welcomed by government officials.

"The arrival of Chinese tourists to the Philippines brings a very positive impact for the prospects of the Philippine tourism industry," said Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco Tuesday at the airport, according to Philippine News Agency. Frasco was joined by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

The reopening of outbound travel arguably rekindles hopes for these Southeast Asian nations of rebooting their virus-plagued tourism sectors that had previously relished the inflow of Chinese passengers.

Throughout the weeklong festival, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Chiangmai, Manila and the resort island of Bali, among others, made the list of the most popular transnational travel destinations among Chinese passengers. 

Bookings of flights to Bali skyrocketed 30-fold year-on-year over the holiday, while that of Singapore-bound flights rose by more than eight times. As measured by hotel bookings, Bangkok hotels saw a 33-fold surge over the holiday, while spending per hotel booking increased by around 70 percent, Group figures revealed.

Similar trends were evidenced by data from other travel platforms. 

Outbound flight bookings rose 6.7 times over the Spring Festival over the 2022 level. Among the top five destinations were Thailand, China's Hong Kong, Malaysia, the US and Indonesia, online travel service provider Qunar said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Friday. 

Along with increased flight availability and an improved viral response, bookings of international flights and hotels are expected to continue seeing an uptrend, according to estimates by Qunar.

Thailand sat atop the overseas destination rankings in terms of bookings, followed by New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, domestic travel services and social-networking platform Mafengwo said in a statement sent to the Global Times.

The stellar numbers over the holiday were considered to be a prelude to the continued revival of outbound travel later this year, as domestic travel agencies and online travel businesses were green-lit to resume pilot outbound group tours to a selection of countries and regions starting February 6. 

A large number of passengers planning to stagger the outbound travel rush are contemplating outbound trips after the Spring Festival, read the Mafengwo statement.