the “Golden Week” 2021 provided again proof of the wanderlust of the Chinese. The number of domestic trips was back to 70% of the level of 2019, despite restrictions and the official discouragement of the government to go on leisure journeys. The spending however stayed at 60% of the 2019 numbers, a result of the growing importance of self-drive trips to destinations within the region.
Your humble editor had the pleasure to participate in the flesh at the Global Tourism Forum Leaders Summit Europe in Brussels. If you missed this very successful event, you can find the video recordings with, among many others, the CEOs of Qatar Airways and of Accor Hotel Group, on the website https://www.globaltourismforum.org/global-tourism-forum-brussels/ or on youtube.com. This involved also flying from Brussels via Amsterdam to Hamburg, something which would not have made one stop reading a newspaper throughout the trip, but now triggers new attention to details after such a long time of staying in one place. I noticed for instance that KLM, a Dutch-French company operating a flight from the Netherlands to Germany, sees no necessity to do announcements in any other language than English. It was also the first time that I heard the announcement that it is illegal to take photos or videos of other passengers unless they have stated their prior agreement.
Masks still play an important role in air transport. In the security announcements you are reminded to take your FFP2 mask off before putting the oxygen mask on, if necessary. Also it is a bit hard to understand why in the first half of the flight it is absolutely necessary to wear a mask, when in the second half of the flight, after receiving some potato chips and a free drink, nobody wears a mask anymore while eating and drinking.
Most importantly however could be the article in the CHINA DAILY, which appeared on the same day the summit was held. For the first time a government official openly said that the borders could be opened again at the beginning of 2022:
“China may open its borders after it vaccinates over 85 percent of its population by early 2022, said Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a recent interview.
The current epidemic control measures against COVID-19 in China have won a lot of time to produce enough vaccines and inoculate people, he told news outlet ifeng. If the vaccination rate can reach more than 85 percent in early 2022, there will be few infections and none of those infected would be in serious condition or die. Besides, the virulence of the coronavirus is also decreasing, according to Gao.
‘By that time, why shouldn’t we open up?’ he said.”
Unlike previous voices from independent researchers, like Dr. Zhong Nanshan, Mr. Gao as the boss of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the National Health Commission based in Beijing, is a government official. The spin to the story changes, as the virulence of the SARS-CoV-2 is decreasing in terms of serious illnesses in a population that is mostly vaccinated, whereas the virulence for an individual unvaccinated persons remains the same.
Is this reference to statistical trickery a sign of the Chinese government admitting that the zero-case policy does not work and that the affluent citizens should be given the freedom of international travel again as a safety valve for any displeasure after the recent power shortages, internet restrictions and looming wealth taxes?
If Dr. Gao’s “beginning of 2022” means before or after the Spring Festival and/or the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February and March 2022, is open to interpretation. In any case, the hints that it is time to get prepared for the next wave of Chinese visitors are growing in number and frequency. The signposts at Schiphol airport, still explaining in Chinese characters the way to the China connections departure gates, soon will get more attention again.
As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI WEEKLY team!