Editorial: COTRI ANALYTICS data for Q1 2020 show 14.5 million border crossings from Mainland China

COTRI ANALYTICS data for Q1 2020 show 14.5 million border crossings from Mainland China

Year-on-Year decrease 66% - A nightmare wrapped in a catastrophe boxed in a calamity

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

A look at the current data from COTRI ANALYTICS for the first quarter of 2020 makes for a sobering reading.

In 2019, Chinese New Year fell on 5 February, whereas in 2020 it already appeared in the calendar on 25 January. In a normal year, there should be steep increases in the arrival numbers for the first month of the year accordingly, followed by decreases in the following month. The developments starting in Wuhan before the festive period and especially the ban on group travel starting from 27 January, however, had the effect that in many destinations the January jump turned out quite moderate with only 10% or 20% YoY increase. Some destinations, mostly smaller ones, reported better results like the 147% YoY increase of the Seychelles or the 145% YoY increase of Serbia. However, in total numbers this translated in less than 1,000 added arrivals for the Seychelles and less than 5,000 more in the case of Serbia. Only Vietnam managed a substantial addition of arrivals with 270,000 more representing a 73% YoY increase.

The expected decline in February developed then into a landslide especially for those destinations, which closed their borders to Chinese visitors already in early February or forced them into a fortnight quarantine. Indonesia and Singapore are two examples, crashing to -95% and -98% arrivals respectively YoY. Destinations, which still allowed Chinese to enter during February saw arrival numbers fall by 60 to 70% YoY.

During March practically all countries in the world closed their doors for Chinese arrivals among many others, as if the virus, which had arrived at all countries already, could be stopped by barricading oneself. As a result the number of Chinese arrivals moved close to zero in almost all cases, represented by unbelievable YoY declines of 95% or even 99.5%!

Overall, the arrival numbers for the complete Q1 2020 accordingly fell for most destinations by between 50% and 65% YoY.

There are two exceptions to this picture, however. First of all, for Greater China the decline started already in January with steep losses due to the unrest in Hong Kong and the reaction of the Mainland China government to the elections on Taiwan. Arrivals to Greater China fell from 22.8 million in Q1 2019 to 5.1 million in Q2 2020, a loss of 78% or almost 18 million trips.

On the other hand, a few destinations actually managed to come out of the Q1 with a positive result. Iceland, which closed its border to Chinese only on 20 March, ended with a glorious YoY increase of 6%, representing a total of 23,372 Chinese visitors. Serbia, China’s closest ally in Europe, has not published its figure for March 2020 yet, but according to COTRI ANALYTICS seems to be on its way to beat the almost 15,000 arrivals of Q1 2019.

All put together, the first quarter of 2020 saw about 14,500,000 border crossings from Mainland China after 43,000,000 border crossings in the previous Q1, a decline of 66%. Most of the leisure travels within the 28.5 million lost trips are not cancelled but deferred. However, the 8.5 million day trips to the SARs Hong Kong and Macau not taken and all the MICE and business trips which morphed into Zoom conferences are lost forever.

With half of Q2 2020 over and international tourism still frozen, the numbers for Q2 with luck will look similar to the Q1 figures, based on a re-start of Chinese outbound tourism during June.

If the second half of 2020 sees the expected rebound and an increase of 25% compared to Q2 2019, the year will end with a total number of 130 million Chinese outbound trips.

Stay healthy, wherever you are. Best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team.