According to the latest statistics, 90 million leisure trips were undertaken in Mainland China during the five days of the 2020 May holidays. This number is in line with the forecast of Ctrip (trip.com) and constitutes the return of tourism to China. In 2019 the number of trips per day was about three times higher, but nevertheless constitutes the return of tourism to China.
Travellers were wearing masks, but did certainly not always keep their distance, with large crowds packing transportation as well as natural resorts and other hot spots like the West Lake in Hangzhou. For some famous attractions more rigorous rules were put into practice. The Forbidden City in Beijing for instance reopened on May 1st, but allowing just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. Also other parks and museums reopened to the public after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowed people to visit at only 30 per cent of the usual capacity. In Wuhan, even the Yellow Crane Tower, the emblematic sight of the city, reopened on April 29th.
Domestic tourism was also supported by the end of travel restrictions for individual trips between provinces, making it possible to visit other than the home province without the need to enter two weeks quarantine at the time of return. Group tours are still only taking place within the borders of a province.
Hotel occupancy rates in China were coming back to about 60% of previous levels already in April, when also a quarter of the passenger aircraft of pre-virus times reappeared in the Chinese skies.
Internationally it is still officially “discouraged” for Chinese nationals to leave China for leisure travels, while most countries still either completely bar Chinese from entry or ask for a quarantine period of typically two weeks.
In a survey for the Wall Street Journal, more than 60% of Chinese travellers between the age of 25 and 54 stated that “I don’t think I will change my behaviour and I wish I could continue to travel as before”, with lower ratings for the very young and the older. Except the age group of 25-34, less than half the interviewed stated that “I believe that my travels will initially be less far from my home country with priority for my country of residence or bordering countries”.
For three more statements, the surveys shows a clear difference between travellers aged 34 or younger and the rest: Whereas the majority of the younger market segment voted for “a different form of tourism, more respectful of the visited communities and of nature”, as well as “avoiding mass tourism destinations and large cities” and “not wishing to visit certain countries and regions that are at risk from a health point of view”, less than half of the travellers aged 35 and agreed with these statements.
However, for many destinations the worst seems to be over soon. The restrictions for border and internal movements are eased and restaurants, museums and other tourism infrastructure expected to be opening again before the end of June. South Korea is said to be close to an agreement with China to start facilitating business travel between major Chinese cities and Seoul after passing through health-screening and quarantine procedures.
For a wider restart, all will depend on the possibility of travel in terms of visa and connectivity as well as on the ability of the destinations to convince especially the younger Chinese potential guests that it is safe again to visit and that their hosts have prepared themselves for the new Chinese post-virus travellers.
Stay Healthy and optimistic, with best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team.