Chinese tourism is starting to climb back, according to COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute).
COTRI said in a prepared statement that the speed of the recovery process is impressive with reports from many cities indicating that it takes only about a week to get a new passport and that travel restrictions are also falling to the wayside quickly.
The clash between South Korea and China over discriminatory treatment seems to be over. South Koreans can now get visas for China again and the South Korean government has ended special treatments for Chinese, COTRI said.
European Union countries have reportedly also agreed to phase out COVID-19 restrictions on travelers from China and will also stop random testing of travelers from China by the middle of March.
Chinese companies have also started investing in outbound tourism infrastructure again with the Shanghai retailer Yuyuan Tourist Mart announcing plans to invest about US$120 million in a Japanese ski resort project on Hokkaido.
Airlines are bringing back a multitude of routes to and from China and ticket prices are in most cases back to pre-pandemic levels, according to COTRI.
Business, studies and family reunions are major reasons for the first outbound travelers, the research institute said, but the first leisure tourists have already been sighted not only in the neighboring countries but also in Sydney, Paris and Milan.
It was less than two months ago that Chinese citizens could again apply for passports and just two weeks ago that Chinese tour operators were officially allowed to sell outbound trips for what is called “group travel” to 20 destinations, even though most customers are said just to buy air tickets and hotel reservations.
Contributing to the interest in travel, COTRI said, are all the marriages that have been put on hold during COVID, expecting to result in a wave of honeymoon trips.
The year 2022 ended with a total number of outbound trips below nine million, about 5 percent of the 2019 level. Five million of these trips went no further than Macau. Hong Kong welcomed 375,000 mainlanders, five times the number of 2021, but still less than 1 percent of the 2019 arrivals.
Assuming no further disruptions or an attack on Taiwan, COTRI said, Chinese travelers could make the steep climb back to the top of all international tourism source markets during the current year.
COTRI is a research organization for the China outbound tourism market based in Hamburg, Germany.