Chinese consumers are progressing from merely dreaming of travel in 2022 to setting clearer travel plans, according to Dragon Trail International’s latest China Travel Market Monitor, which surveys 1,045 Chinese citizens who have had recent international travel experience.
The results, gathered for TTG Asia in a survey conducted in December 2021, found that 78% of respondents are considering outbound travel in the new year, with 55% having a destination in mind and will go ahead once outbound travel is made possible.
An additional 17% even have a date in mind and are waiting for international restrictions to be lifted; while five per cent have started to plan their itinerary.
Only one per cent – or 12 respondents – have gone ahead to book some or all of their next outbound trip components.
Respondents have identified several factors that will inspire the return of their travel confidence, with the most popular conditions being the safe resumption of international travel for several months (60%), end of quarantine requirements both ways (58%), lifting of China’s restrictions on outbound group tours (41%), and resumption of destinations’ visa issuance (40%).
Some respondents are also likely to travel overseas once China replaces quarantine in government facility with home isolation, when the price is right for international flights, or when international flight frequencies are up.
Travellers in China’s second-tier cities are found to be more conservative than others when it comes to travel approaches. Tier Two residents primarily require international travel to resume safely for several months before they will regain confidence to make an overseas trip.
At the same time, male Chinese travellers are less likely than females to travel as soon as outbound trips are permitted.
When asked whom they would want to take their first post-pandemic outbound trip with, 49% of respondents pointed to their family, including children, while a holiday with their significant other came in a far second (29%).
Eleven per cent of respondents want to travel alone when they can return to travel, while 22% are keen to mark the occasion with friends or colleagues, implying that their first overseas trip could be business related.
Male travellers are more likely to take their first international trip with family and children, while those in the higher income bracket – with a personal monthly income of RMB30,000 (US$4,713) and above – are least likely to travel with partners and family without children.
Japan takes pole position as the destination of choice among Chinese respondents, with 17% of votes or 177 in total. It is also the only destination to score a double-digit percentage vote.
Other destinations that respondents are eyeing for their first post-pandemic outbound trip include Thailand (eight per cent), Australia (eight per cent), France (seven per cent), and South Korea (six per cent).
Tier One residents (24%) are more likely than their Tier Two peers (14%) to make a trip to Japan. Dragon Trail International’s research manager, Mengfan Wang, explained that this could be due to Tier Two travellers being generally more conservative about travelling outbound.
In selecting their destination of choice, respondents pay greatest attention to the destination’s track record in pandemic management (59%). The quality of the destination’s sanitation measures is also crucial (51%), so is a low level of Covid-19 infections in the destination over several months (47%) and the destination’s perceived welcome for Chinese travellers (41%).
Other factors under consideration include the destination’s strong reputation in medical services (37%), value for money (36%), variety of tourist experiences (35%), and availability of direct flights to destination (33%).
Some 32% of respondents would consider all the above factors equally.
In forming their post-pandemic travel plans, a majority of respondents (83%) rely strongly on online travel agency or travel review sites (such as Trip.com, Mafengwo, Fliggy) for information. National tourism board official channels (such as website, WeChat or mini-programme) come in second (63%) as the most favoured source of information.
Commercial entities, specifically travel agents or agencies (54%) and airline, hotel, car rental company official channels (51%) are also deemed reliable sources of information.
Word-of-mouth sources, such as friends and family (22%) and travel bloggers/travel media (23%) are favoured by a smaller segment of respondents.
Further defining how Chinese travellers are obtaining their travel information, the China Travel Market Monitor found that Tier One and Two residents are more likely to rely on OTAs, while New Tier One residents are keener on national tourism board official channels.
Tier Two consumers are more likely to rely on word-of-mouth sources than their peers in Tier One cities.
Among age groups, those in the 21-30s bracket rely the least on travel agents and travel agencies, which is most preferred by those aged 41 and above.
Travellers married without children or unmarried are more likely consult travel blogs than those married with children.
The China Travel Market Monitor is the only specialised travel market survey that gains insights directly from China’s outbound travellers, with surveys launched each month and allowing multiple brands to join at the same time for a cost-effective solution to getting the most up-to-date information on this segment of consumers.
Dragon Trail International is an award-winning marketing solutions company with roots in China and extensive experience in the global travel and MICE sectors.