Editorial: The second exodus and the future of business travel

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Today, June 6th, 2022, it is exactly 33 years ago that a good friend of your humble editor, a German national working for a German company in Beijing, walked down Changan Avenue. There were a lot of people around, some in uniform and some not, when suddenly he heard some sound like birds chirping. There were no birds in the center of China’s capital, so it dawned on him that he actually heard the sound of live bullets whizzing over his head. That was the minute he decided to leave China with the next Lufthansa evacuation flight (for which he received a hefty bill from the German government a few months later). He spent the rest of his career happily in Vietnam. 

Your humble editor, at that time still a tour operator, had left Beijing with a regular flight already earlier, on June 1st, 1989, after the end of a special tour for “Book people”, publishers, booksellers, authors from German-speaking countries. The tour had seen changes in the schedule on a daily base in accordance to the places occupied by protesters and due to Chinese publishers’ and authors’ last-minute cancellations of meetings. Most of them had more important things to do than chatting with a group of Laowais. 

China today is certainly completely different compared to the China of 1989. Nevertheless, many surveys as well as discussions within the foreign communities in Shanghai and other cities as published for instance on LinkedIn point to a comparable new exodus of ex-pats and international companies. What is different is the level of interconnectedness between China and the rest of the world as a result of three decades of globalisation. In the second half of 1989 and in 1990 nobody wanted to be seen to have any dealings with the Chinese government. In fact, the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall, instead of what was called at that time in East Germany the “Chinese solution”, and the end of the Soviet Union kept the world outside of China busy enough. 

Looking pragmatically at these developments in tourism terms it is likely that in post-pandemic times the number of international business travels to and from China might not increase anymore as it did in the last three decades as a result of some de-investment, a reduction of the number of ex-pats living in China and also some more Zoom conferences. The importance of China not only as a global factory but also as a major market will however not result in a significant decrease of business travel in both directions beyond a dip in the coming years. Such a forecast is obviously based on the assumption that there will be no new Black Swan events interfering, an assumption necessary if ever harder to believe, given the frequency of such events in the past few years.    

Two internal notes:

a) If you understand German, we recommend participating in the Market Insight Webinar China 2022 of the German National Tourism Board on June 14th. Your humble editor will give a (recorded) presentation about Why and most importantly How to prepare for the next wave of Chinese visitors. To register: https://registration.germany.travel/microsite/index.cfm?l=2684&tempData=true

b) At the beginning of next week your humble editor has the honour and pleasure to participate (physically) in the Mediterranean Tourism Forum 2022 in Malta. Therefore, COTRI Weekly will take a short break. When we are back, you will hear about the results and highlights of the MTF. 

As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the whole COTRI WEEKLY team!

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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