Chinese outbound travel to Asia-Pacific countries is expected to reach close to 2019 arrival numbers by the end of the year and reach new heights beyond 2019 levels from 2024 onwards – adding momentum to the tourism recovery in the region.
Haiyan Song, associate dean at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, shared a three-year visitor forecast by the university in partnership with Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) using econometric models and expert panel adjustments.
Based on the forecast, Chinese outbound travel to Asia-Pacific will reach close to 2019 levels which is 61.8 million Chinese travellers by end-2023, and exceed 2019 levels in 2024 by 133.5 per cent if there are no or few barriers to travel, and grow further in 2025 to 152.5 per cent over 2019.
Based on the severity of barriers to travel such as government policies, inflation and air capacity among others, the forecast of growth in 2025 over 2019 is lower at either 121.7 per cent or 96.5 per cent.
Song named Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Thailand and South Korea as the top five beneficiaries of Chinese outbound travel in 2025, similar to Chinese outbound travel in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
The major beneficiaries of Chinese outbound travel in the short term are short- and medium-haul destinations, shared OAG’s regional sales director, Mayur Patel. He noted that outbound travel from China is expected to ramp up from the second quarter especially around the Labour Day public holidays.
He also expected Chinese and Asian airlines to build their capacity over the coming months, resulting in more inbound and outbound travel to/ from China.
Both Song and Mayur were speakers in a webinar organised by PATA on January 26 entitled How would the opening of China impact on demand for tourism.
Another speaker, Caroline Bremner, head of travel research, Euromonitor International, opined that while Asia-Pacific was slower to open up after the height of the pandemic, the reopening of China will bring travel and tourism back in the region.
She said: “It’s really exciting to see how that’s going to develop going forward, especially as more capacity is put in the market.”
She also cautioned that the slowing down of the global economy and high inflation will impact consumers, and the rising costs of ground and air travel will pose a challenge to tourism businesses in general.