GT Voice: China’s tourism rebound is significant for global recovery
Published: Feb 28, 2023 11:13 PM
Illutration: Xia Qing/GT

Illutration: Xia Qing/GT

Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia, is set to spend four days from Tuesday to Friday visiting first-tier Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, in a bid to promote the Australian tourism and woo back Chinese tourists, according to a report from the Global Times Chinese version on Tuesday. If anything, this is a microcosm of the global expectation for Chinese tourists.

It is understandable to see Tourism Australia's expectation for the return of Chinese visitors. In 2019, tourism in Australia accounted for 3.1 percent of the national GDP, contributing $60.8 billion to the Australian economy. The figure shrank to $35.14 billion in 2022, reflecting how the global pandemic has hit the tourism sector worldwide.

If there were no return of Chinese tourists, no other country could make up the gap left by China. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China was Australia's largest source of inbound tourists, and Chinese tourists were the biggest spenders in Australia's tourism industry. In 2019, Australia received a total of 1.44 million Chinese tourists, who accounted for 15 percent of all international visitors to Australia and spent a collective A$12.4 billion ($8.32 billion), according to media reports.  

In fact, Australia is among numerous countries that are pinning their tourism recovery hope on the Chinese market these days. Since China optimized its entry policies in early January and resumed outbound group tours starting from early February, countries in Asia, Europe, and other regions have been eagerly looking forward to the return of Chinese tourists. 

Due to China's expanding middle-income group, not only is the number of Chinese tourists huge, but their per capita tourism consumption has also grown fast over the last decade, making Chinese travelers a mainstay of global tourism. In 2019, Chinese tourists made 166 million international trips, and spent $270 billion. In Asia, Chinese visitors accounted for the majority of overseas arrivals in ASEAN countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, as well as Japan, with millions of Chinese visiting each year before 2019. And outside of the Asia-Pacific, the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and Italy have all benefited from the Chinese tourist dollar.

It also means, however, global tourism suffered when the Chinese people stopped traveling abroad during  the pandemic. The year 2020 and 2021 saw a combined consumption loss of $270 billion by Chinese outbound tourists worldwide, according to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Therefore, the return of China's tourism enthusiasm will inject impetus into not only the Chinese economy, but also the global economic recovery, promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges. 

Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in the world, providing employment for hundreds of millions of people, with one in 10 people working in tourism-related industries worldwide. In some countries, tourism even accounts for more than 20 percent of GDP. That's why countries are so eager to benefit from China's tourism recovery, which has already shown signs of robust rebound.

During this year's Spring Festival holiday, China recorded  about 308 million domestic tourist visits, up 23.1 percent year-on-year, recovered to 88.6 percent for the same period in 2019, while domestic tourism revenue reached 375.843 billion yuan, up 30 percent year-on-year, recovering to 73.1 percent of the same period in 2019, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. 

During the same period, more than 2.87 million people traveled abroad, an average of 410,000 per day, up 120.5 percent from the previous Spring Festival holiday.

Fundamentally speaking, the robust rebound in both outbound and domestic travel is a reflection of the exuberant vitality of China's consumption power, which will enhance the global optimism toward China's economic growth prospects, lifting confidence in global economic recovery.

It should be noted that a full recovery of China's tourism industry requires not only the enthusiasm of domestic tourists, but also the inflows of foreign tourists, which means the need to strengthen international cooperation will be an inevitable trend for global tourism.