China outbound seat capacity improves with Asia-Pacific holding majority of seats: ForwardKeys

A study by ForwardKeys and Dragon Trail International has identified a pick up in outbound China travel in 2Q2023, as more seats connect Chinese travellers to the world, and that the Asia-Pacific region currently holds the largest share at 81%, with a recovery rate of 43% in 2Q2023.

The best-connected destinations with China include Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.

China outbound travel is gradually recovering with the Asia-Pacific region holding the largest share of seats

According to the latest consumer survey data, destinations like Japan and South Korea remain highly popular among Chinese travellers despite travel restrictions imposed on them by these two countries.

Polling 1,012 mainland China travellers about their plans and preferences for outbound travel, the responses showed Hong Kong remaining as the top choice, followed by Macau. Internationally, Thailand is the number one country that Chinese travellers plan to visit this year, followed by Japan and South Korea; for longhaul destinations, France and Australia were top of the list.

The latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys shows the same destinations with the highest travel demand.

Seat capacity from China has been enhanced
Ever since the airline industry commenced its summer season on March 26, the seat capacity for Chinese outbound travel has been enhanced.

Africa and the Middle East are set to increase the most at 75% in 2Q2023, with 6% of total international capacity from China, while the UAE is the most well-connected destination at 44%. The number of seats between China and Kenya has doubled since 2019, and Egypt has also experienced a 10% growth. These three countries are included in the destination list of approved group tours and have a close relationship with China through the One Belt, One Road initiative.

Meanwhile, capacity to the Americas in 2Q2023 is set to recover only 10% of pre-pandemic seats, as the US is a major destination, and many airlines have yet to restore their capacity in the China-US market.

Connecting Chinese travellers with the world
Due to the current absence of direct flights between China and the US, Hong Kong and Seoul are becoming even more popular for connecting traffic. Seoul’s hub has gained popularity by achieving a 375% increase in connecting travellers compared to 2019 levels.

On the other hand, with most Chinese passengers using Seoul as a connecting hub when travelling to France and the UK in Europe, direct capacity from China to these two destinations has decreased by 85% and 58% respectively.

Detailed findings will be presented in a webinar on April 26, jointly hosted by ForwardKeys and Dragon Trail International.

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