Travelport has released its latest data highlighting the resurgence of outbound travel from mainland China, which shows that demand continues to rise leading up to China’s Labour Day (May 1), one of the most popular times for tourists from mainland China to travel.
When it was announced on December 27 that travellers arriving to China no longer needed to undergo quarantine, outbound flight bookings from mainland China on that very day increased by 247% when compared to the same day the previous month.
According to research conducted by the UNWTO and the China Tourism Academy, approximately 150 million Chinese tourists travelled internationally in 2019, spending US$277 billion on global tourism. With quarantine restrictions now lifted, 1Q2023 saw outbound bookings from mainland China increase by 331% compared to last year.
However, mainland China is still only at 21% of its 2019 outbound booking levels. According to OAG, international airline capacity is at 37% of its April 2019 availability.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, pent-up demand for outbound travel from mainland China is massive, with 40% of survey respondents wanting to travel and prioritising international destinations for their next trip.
Travelport’s data shows the top five destinations that travellers from mainland China have booked trips for in 2023 include Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, the US, and South Korea.
One major difference in 2023 travel is that tourists from mainland China are taking shorter trips. The number of trips ranging from two to four days is increasing, which explains why closer destinations, such as Hong Kong and Macau, claim the top two spots.
Additionally, 71% of flight options available from mainland China are bound for destinations in Asia-Pacific.
Meanwhile, Labour Day in China is celebrated as an annual public holiday on May 1, with the holiday expanded to include a three-day break in recent years. This makes April 24 through May 7 (the week of Labour Day and the week prior) the most ideal dates for travellers to get away.
This year’s holiday period has reached a three-year high when compared to last year alone, with outbound travel bookings increasing by 470%. In addition, unlike the rest of the year, these dates see a noticeable spike in trips longer than 10 days. This could explain why the top destinations for these travel dates include longhaul destinations such as the UK, Canada and the US.