Trip.com Group has revealed significant growth in international and inbound travel this Lunar New Year, with international travel increased by 10 times, fuelled by more relaxed visa policies, particularly to Asian destinations.
Inbound travel to China, which is experiencing one of its busiest travel seasons of the year, has also increased tenfold compared to the previous year, with a growing number of global tourists joining in the celebrations across China. The festive month there is set to witness a record nine billion inter-regional movements, with February 8 – the eve of Reunion Day – the busiest travel day of the season.
More families travelling to Asia in international travel spike
International travel rose by more than 10 times compared to the same period last year, accompanied by an increase in expenditure, particularly on flights. Travellers are favouring shorthaul routes, with South-east Asia, Japan, and South Korea emerging as their preferred choices. On the whole, popular destinations include Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam.
The international travel trend is gaining momentum, fuelled by increasingly relaxed visa requirements, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Since July last year, China has announced visa-free arrangements for more than 10 countries. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have seen a spike in search volume following the announcement of mutual visa exemptions.
Amid the global travel surge, travel to the Middle East is also on the rise, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) emerging as focal points due to favourable visa policies and convenient arrival procedures. Dubai and Qatar are among popular destinations, with the UAE recording one of the highest volumes of guided tours.
Furthermore, family-centric travel has taken centre stage during the Spring Festival, constituting 47% of all travellers this year – a 5% increase from the previous year. This shift underscores the growing significance of family-focused journeys during the holiday season. Families are also embracing various travel preferences by renting cars for flexibility, opting for customised tours to cater to their unique needs, and hiring local guides to curate personalised and memorable experiences.
Varying attractions in Asia and Europe
The top Spring Festival attractions differ between Asia and Europe, with theme parks taking the spotlight in Asia. Meanwhile, Europe beckons travellers with its rich cultural heritage and history, predominantly showcasing museums, historical landmarks, and city sites. For tourists exploring Asia, iconic names like Universal Studios Singapore, Warner Bros Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter, Tokyo DisneySea, and South Korea’s Everland are the star attractions, are particularly popular among tourists from Malaysia, Thailand, China, South Korea, and Japan. In contrast, European destinations favoured by Asian tourists are museums and enchanting cityscapes, where landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, and Musee d’Orsay are preferred.
Cruise tourism too, emerged as a major draw during the Spring Festival, with sold-out schedules for cruise ships sailing from Shanghai, and strong demand in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Italian cruise ship Costa Serena and RWS’ Genting Dream, which depart from Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, are nearly at full capacity with limited availability remaining. Moreover, this year, the average window for bookings are 35 days earlier than in 2019, indicating a substantial increase in early cruise reservations and growing demand.
Massive influx of global travellers in China
The Spring Festival continues to attract an increasing number of travellers to China, with inbound travel bookings surging more than 10 times. Visitors come mainly from Japan, the US, South Korea, Malaysia, Australia, the UK, Canada, Vietnam, Germany, and Thailand, reflecting a growing international interest in celebrating the Lunar New Year there.
Travellers are showing an increased preference for staying at four-star hotels compared to the previous year, whereas demand for five-star accommodations has remained similar to last year. They are also extending their stay in China, with an average duration of just over two days during this year’s Spring Festival, compared to under two days in the previous year. The booking window for travel to China has expanded significantly, from six days in 2023 to 39 days in 2024, possibly indicating an increased awareness of travel opportunities.
Record travel season in China driven by road trip trend
There will be approximately nine billion inter-regional movements in China, setting a new historical record and nearly tripling the numbers from the 2019 season. Travellers are embarking on journeys that span the spectrum of snowy northern regions to relaxing southern hot springs, leading to a seven-times increase in domestic travel bookings.
This regional travel experience, which has evolved into a trend dubbed the “North-South Exchange”, continues to attract travellers seeking unique and immersive journeys.
Furthermore, there is a growing trend of embarking on road trips for such journeys, up by approximately 60 per cent compared to the same period last year. This trend is not limited to just bookings; car rental periods have also extended, with orders for five- to eight-day rentals increasing by more than 20%, and three- to five-day rental orders increasing by 10% in the same period.
Anticipating strong growth in experience-based tourism, various destinations such as Hangzhou and Kunming are offering half-priced or free admission to scenic spots. A plethora of activities such as ice skating, skiing, hot springs, culinary experiences, lantern exhibitions, temple fairs, and cultural events have been organised to attract tourists.