(Bloomberg) -- China’s domestic tourism market is expected to rebound to 90% of pre-pandemic levels this year thanks to surging demand since Covid-related travel restrictions were lifted in late 2022.
A total of 5.5 billion trips are expected within China during 2023, according to the China Tourism Academy. Revenue generated by the domestic travel market should reach 5 trillion yuan ($700 billion), about 80% of pre-Covid levels, said the group, the data center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Chinese people have embraced travel since the beginning of the year, especially during the Labor Day holiday and the Dragon Boat Festival when the number of trips exceeded those in 2019, said Zhang Yang, a researcher with the China Tourism Academy. But the spending recovery has been more conservative, Zhang said at a briefing in Beijing on Friday.
While most of the rebound thus far has occurred within the domestic market, the academy expects outbound tourism to significantly expand in 2023. Some new trends are already emerging.
East Asia and Southeast Asia were still the main destinations for Chinese tourists in the first half, with West Asia, Africa and Belt & Road countries gaining popularity as long-haul destinations, Zhang said. A shortage of international flights and difficulties getting visas could limit the rebound, the academy warned.
The inbound travel market, which saw a slight recovery in the first half, won’t experience a surge from recent promotional campaigns until September or October. It usually takes six months for those efforts to generate results, Zhang said. A notable increase from 2022, when new arrivals were sharply restricted and quarantines were in place because of the pandemic, is expected for the whole year.
Some hurdles slowing the arrival of foreign travelers remain. Traditional sources of tourists, such as Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, remain sluggish because of political tensions and differences in the timing of border reopenings after Covid. Some unique features of living in China, such as the widespread use of digital payments, also make it hard for foreign tourists, Zhang said.
--With assistance from Danny Lee.
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Author: Bloomberg News