Chinese travel hesitancy remains finds new Dragon Trail, ForwardKeys study

  • A segment of those who used to travel are now lacking in travel confidence
  • Personal safety, destinations friendly with China, travel convenience are key motivations
  • Visa-free entry, visa-on-arrival, good air options help with Chinese outbound return

The What’s New in Chinese Outbound Travel April 2023 research by Dragon Trail International (DTI) and ForwardKeys has identified persistent travel hesitancy among Chinese consumers, with 26 per cent needing persuasion to travel in 2023 and 28 per cent looking to travel only in 2025.

Furthermore, according to a poll of 1,012 respondents, 27 per cent did not know if they would travel this year, and 37 per cent want to wait until 2024.

The majority of Chinese travellers favour a complete tour package with visa, guide and transport for the sake of worry-free trips

These and other details were shared during a recent webinar.

DTI research analyst, Yelinuer Kadeerbieke, said the research conducted in early-April showed that 30 per cent of respondents had previously travelled internationally.

Key reasons for the reluctance to travel abroad were concerns about destinations not being “as safe as China”, “countries opposing China” and “Covid-19”.

Kadeerbieke stressed: “The Chinese are affected by news like gun ownership and Chinese being attacked or robbed even if there are only one or two cases. It’s about personal safety and about the communication.”

While crowds were a concern, being able to take in local experiences was a top reason for going abroad,” she said.

On what travellers want, research shows that 56 per cent voted for landmarks; 61 per cent still want to buy a complete package with visa, guide and transport for “convenience”, “safety” and to be “worry-free” when travelling with children or the elderly; and 48 per cent only want to book flights and hotels.

Traveller uncertainty has presented destinations keen on tapping the China market with the opportunity to “message and target” the “26 per cent who hope to travel in 2023 but had not booked”.

Kadeerbieke commented: “Many Chinese travellers renewed their passports recently, but 31 per cent would not be travelling abroad,” and with 20 per cent planning to go to Europe, this buys destinations and businesses “time to get ready”.

She noted that five million passports were issued in 1Q2023, that about 10 per cent of Chinese had passports pre-pandemic but the number would have gone down since.

Asia remains top choice
Sienna Parulis-Cook, DTI director of marketing and communications, noted of 40 destinations given to respondents to choose from, Asia was in the lead, with Japan, South Korea and Europe also favoured.

The top destinations for 2023 according to the research are:

Hong Kong (22.1 per cent)
Macau (9.9 per cent)
Thailand (9.6 per cent)
Japan (6.7 per cent)
South Korea (4.4 per cent)
Taiwan (3.3 per cent)
France (3.2 per cent)
Singapore (3.2 per cent)
Australia (3.0 per cent)
Russia (2.2 per cent)

For preferred accommodation type, respondents picked boutique hotels, resorts, private homes stays and Airbnb options. Nancy Dai, China market expert, ForwardKeys, added there was increasing demand for homestays and apartments, and the availability of such options would make a destination more attractive.

As of March 15, 2023, 60 countries – 46 per cent of 2018 figure – had received approval to sell group and packaged travel to the Chinese, Parulis-Cook said, while Dai pointed out that longhaul trips were “picking up again”.

Dai added that destinations offering visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival facilities were “showing good recovery” while connectivity to and from China to some mid-haul regions had increased exponentially.

According to ForwardKeys data announced ahead of the webinar, Africa and the Middle East are set to increase the most at 75 per cent in 2Q2023, with six per cent of total international capacity from China, while the UAE is the most well- connected destination at 44 per cent.

The number of seats between China and Kenya has doubled since 2019, and Egypt has also experienced 10 per cent 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.

For short overseas trips, Dai said South Korea “was a particularly important destination for singles and couples, and had become more prominent in 2Q2023”.

The research, conducted between April 3 and 7, had a profile breakdown of 51 per cent female and 49 per cent male.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents were from first-tier and new first-tier cities and 51 per cent were from second-tier cities.

Of the 1,012 respondents, 25 per cent were born post-2000, 34 per cent post-1990, 26 per cent post-1980, 11 per cent post-1970, and four per cent post-1960 and older.

Editor’s note: The percentage of countries approved for Chinese group and packaged travel is 46 per cent of 2018 figure, not eight per cent. This has been corrected.

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