In 2020, China’s outbound tourist trips totaled 20.334 million, a decrease of 86.9% compared to 2019. In February 2020, outbound travel number dropped dramatically to less than 600,000 from over 10 million in January. The outbound group tours came to a complete stop. Outbound tourist trips for 2021 are projected to reach 25.62 million, an increase of 27% from 2020. Compared to the large scale of over 100 million outbound travelers prior to the pandemic, China’s outbound tourism basically remains at a standstill.
Asia continued to be the top destination with 95.45% visitations by Chinese travelers, followed by Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Africa. Overall, trips to those continents decreased by 70% to 95%, with Asia taking the smallest decrease and Oceania the biggest decrease. Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, and Chinese Taipei remained as the most visited destinations, accounting for more than 80% of visits.
The top 15 destinations were Macau SAR, Hong Kong SAR, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, the U.S., Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, the U.K., Australia, Canada and Indonesia, with a decrease ranging from 66% to 98%. Travel to Macau SAR showed an obvious recovery.
The survey shows that safety, short-distance, and companionship are the focal points for outbound travel. 82.8% of respondents would travel to a destination where there are no longer COVID infections. Respondents are more inclined to avoid crowded destinations. 81.6% indicate that for a while, they would opt for domestic travel rather than outbound travel. 71.7% are reluctant to travel abroad by air due to the COVID infection uncertainties.
For outbound travel, the majority of the respondents would rely on social media and travel websites, only 25.08% would use tour operators, which shows a decrease of 37.79% compared to 2019. Most respondents choose “travel with entire family” and “travel with partial family,” and fewer choose “travel alone” and “travel with strangers.” As to travel duration, less than 10% choose more than 15 days and more than 60% plan for 1 to 7 days, of which nearly 50% choose 4 to 7 days.
Outbound tourism continues to be affected by the global pandemic, and both international and Chinese domestic situations are still unstable. In the future, public health control measures will likely become normalized, and Chinese outbound tourists will desire better safety and health protection. The outbound tourism industry is adapting to a new normal through technological innovations and improvements, including vaccinations, rapid PCR testing, digital health codes, etc. Additionally, 5G, Big Data, A.I., etc., are being integrated into the tourism industry practices, which would positively aid outbound tourism in the future.
The Report states that the Chinese citizens still have a desire for outbound travel, supported by the large population base, urbanization, and better economic conditions. The Report also contains a section outlining the industry’s efforts/innovation in transitioning from outbound tourism to domestic tourism to meet the market demand.
The final section of the Report includes an important analysis of the 2022 outlook.