A Happy New Year?

Cautious optimism for Chinese outbound tourism in 2021

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

The headline of this week’s editorial of COTRI Weekly is actually exactly the same as the one for the editorial of January 8th, 2020, with only the name of the year changed.

Some clouds on the horizon were already seen by your humble editor, who a few days after the Chinese New Year of the Rat started, reminded readers of the SARS crisis of 2003:

Unknown at the time, in November 2002 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) started in Guangzhou and spread to many countries in the world. On March 15th, 2003, the WHO issued a global alert about a new infectious disease, advising against any unnecessary travel to and from East Asia. On April 2nd, Chinese officials finally began reporting the severity and extent of the SARS outbreak. As a result, the second quarter of 2003 saw almost no Mainland Chinese citizen arriving. For the whole year, the number of outbound trips jumped from 16.6 million in 2002 to 20.9 million in 2004.

With the yet not fully named 2019-nCoV, things could turn out in a similar way, based on what is known until now. On the one hand the disease is spreading much faster, given the much improved domestic and international transport infrastructure available in comparison to 2003, on the other hand the Chinese government reacts in a much different way to the crisis. Among many others, starting from the 27th of January, all group travels from China have to cease. Individual travellers however will have a bigger incentive than before to go abroad.”

That cautious optimism, alas, was defeated by the strength of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Now, a few days after the start of the Chinese New Year of the Yin Metal Ox, we find ourselves in a similar situation in hoping that the restart, the “revenge consumption”, will bring back Chinese visitors, supported by research results like the recent one from TCI Research, which showed that more than 2/3 of Chinese outbound travellers plan to travel long-distance as soon as possible again.

Among all the panic and despair, a look at the numbers may help: 741,768 daily new cases (seven day average) were reported worldwide on Jan. 11th, 2021. Within one month, this number fell to 415,287 new cases and plunged for Feb. 15th to less than 400,000. This is still a high number, but shows the effect of social distancing plus vaccination measures. Even more importantly, the number of CoViD-19 related deaths dropped within two weeks from more than 14,000 to less than 12,000. European countries are still the home of most deaths if measured in relation to the total population, with 14 out of the top 15 countries located in Europe, the USA being the only exception.

The Yin Metal Ox year is supposed to reflect the character of the Ox, a steadfast, strong beast that ploughs the soil, not hurrying but never giving up, ploughing on in all conditions to achieve its task.

Let’s hope this year is going to be much like that, a slow and steady pace to recovery from a, to put it mildly, turbulent year, combined with the money aspect of the metal and the softening influence of Yin for increased international solidarity and cooperation.

Best regards, as always, from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI Weekly team!

This editorial is also available as a video on COTRI YouTube Channel.

COTRI Intelligence

COTRI Intelligence is the indispensable source of weekly consulting, analysis, data and news for everybody seriously interested in the post-pandemic Chinese outbound tourism market and changing Chinese consumer preferences.  COTRI Intelligence is published by COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute and edited by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS. Regional partners and Content partners [...]

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