Travelport, a global technology company that powers bookings for hundreds of thousands of travel suppliers worldwide, released trend data highlighting the resurgence of outbound travel from mainland China. Demand has continued to rise leading up to Chinese Labour Day (1 May), historically one of the most popular times for tourists from mainland China to travel.
On 27 December, the Chinese government made a much-anticipated announcement: travelers arriving to China from 8 January would no longer have to quarantine. On the day of the announcement, outbound flight bookings from mainland China increased by 247 percent when compared to the same day the previous month.
Prior to the pandemic, China had the most travelers visiting destinations outside of their home country. According to research conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the China Tourism Academy, approximately 150 million Chinese tourists traveled internationally in 2019, spending $277 billion on global tourism. With quarantine restrictions now lifted, the first quarter of 2023 saw outbound bookings from mainland China increase by 331 percent compared to last year. However, mainland China is still only at 21 percent of its 2019 outbound booking levels. According to OAG, international airline capacity is at 37 percent of its April 2019 availability.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, pent-up demand for outbound travel from mainland China is massive, with 40 percent of survey respondents wanting to travel and prioritising international destinations for their next trip. According to Travelport data, the top five destinations that travelers from mainland China have booked trips to in 2023 are:
- Hong Kong SAR (#4 in 2019)
- Macau SAR (#9 in 2019)
- Thailand (#2 in 2019)
- United States (#5 in 2019)
- South Korea (#3 in 2019)
One major difference in 2023 travel is that tourists from mainland China are taking shorter trips, with the percent of 2 day and 3-4 day trips both increasing. This may explain why closer destinations, such as Hong Kong and Macau, claim the number one and two spots. Additionally, of all the flight options available from mainland China, the majority (71 percent) are bound for Asia Pacific.
Labour Day in China is celebrated as an annual public holiday on 1 May. In recent years, the holiday has been expanded to include a three-day break, making it one of the most popular times of the year to travel. The period from 24 April through 7 May (the week of Labour Day and the week prior) tend to be the most ideal dates for travelers to get away.
Due to pent up demand, outbound travel from mainland China during this year’s holiday period has reached a three-year high. When compared against last year alone, travel bookings for these dates have increased by 470 percent. Additionally, unlike the rest of the year, these dates see a noticeable spike in trips longer than 10 days, which may explain why the top destinations for these travel dates are further afield. Long-haul locales such as the United Kingdom and Canada have all entered the top 10 for these dates only, and the United States claims the number two spot.