China tourism rebounds above pre-pandemic levels

Release time:2023-05-04 Publisher:South Asia Development

China's domestic tourism rebounded above pre-pandemic levels during the five-day May Day break.

Tourists made 274m trips within the country during the holiday period, China's Ministry of Tourism says.

That was almost 20% higher than in 2019, before the outbreak of Covid-19 triggered lockdowns across the country.

Official figures also show that tourists spent $21bn (£16.7bn) during the period, more than twice the amount seen the same time last year.

"This can be seen as a turning point of China's tourism sector. The market performance has truly returned to its 2019 level," Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy told the official state news agency Xinhua.

However, some experts highlight that while Chinese people were travelling again, they are not spending as much as before the pandemic.

Domestic tourists were "trading down" as opposed to "spending up," Standard Chartered's Raymond Cheng told the BBC.

This puts into doubt whether a tourism rebound would lead to a significant economic boost for the country, he added.

Outside of China, the country's tourists could help support the recovery of the global travel industry.

Before Covid, China was the most important source of international tourists, with more than 150m Chinese people taking trips overseas each year.

During the May Day holiday an average of 1.2m Chinese people travelled abroad each day, according state media. That was twice last year's figure.

That was as tourists from Mainland China travelled to destinations like Hong Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.

However, airline bookings by Chinese tourists travelling abroad were still around half what they were before the pandemic, according to travel data firm ForwardKeys.

Trends in domestic travel will remain stronger than international travel "because of limited aircraft and crew availability," Mr Cheng said.