Themed trips, seaside getaways in favor among both young and older tourists
Soaring summer temperatures are fueling Chinese consumers' enthusiasm for travel, and the scorching travel market this summer is expected to comprehensively surpass levels seen in 2019 before the COVID-19 outbreak, industry experts forecast.
The fervent travel market witnessed during the May Day holiday and Dragon Boat Festival indicated a strong recovery dynamic of the sector following effective control of the pandemic. Industry players have great expectations for the tourism market this summer in terms of the number of travelers and their expenditures, said Trip.com Group, the country's leading online travel agency.
As of June 14, Trip.com saw the booking volume of products related to parent-child trips jump more than sevenfold year-on-year. Such bookings accounted for more than 30 percent of total bookings, and the volume had already exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
In addition, bookings for domestic cross-provincial long-haul tours have been booming. Top destinations include Beijing; Shanghai; Xi'an, Shaanxi province; Chengdu, Sichuan province; and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Trip.com said.
"Despite some destinations having raised the prices for their travel products, it hasn't impacted consumers' willingness to set out this summer, and the trend has led to a significant increase in booking volumes of domestic flights," said Xie Xiaoqing, a senior researcher at Trip.com's research institute.
This year, the amount of money that Chinese consumers spend on domestic travel is expected to surge 169 percent over last year, and reach 96 percent of pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019. Chinese consumers' expenditures for outbound travel are likely to jump 100 percent year-on-year, recording 40 percent of 2019 levels, said a research report by BOCOM International Holdings.
The nation's theme parks have also witnessed a surge in visitors and revenue. Popular parks include Shanghai Disney Resort, Universal Beijing Resort, Zhuhai Chimelong International Ocean Resort in Guangdong province and the Atlantis Sanya resort water park in Hainan province, according to online travel agency Tuniu Corp.
Shanghai Disney Resort said that since June 23, it began to raise its admission ticket prices in response to rising costs such as new product development. The price of a regular-day admission ticket has increased from 435 yuan ($60) to 475 yuan, and the price of a peak-day ticket has risen from 769 yuan to 799 yuan.
Prices for domestic flights are also on the rise. As of June 14, the one-way domestic flight carried an average price tag of 1,227 yuan including taxes, jumping 37.4 percent year-on-year. The average price edged up 15.7 percent over levels seen during the May Day holiday, said Trip.com.
"Given the growing trend of domestic air transportation capacity and flight ticket prices, the increase has basically filled the deficit seen during the pandemic. The popularity of the domestic travel market seen over the May Day holiday is expected to continue its momentum," said Li Yuan, an aviation industry analyst.
"The international travel market is still on a recovery track. Considering that international leisure travel boasts higher price sensitivity for consumers compared with international business travel, it will still take some time for the market to return to the peak levels seen before the pandemic," Li said.
For outbound travel, parents and their children, as well as college graduates, have preferred destinations that offer beach resorts. Thailand, the Maldives, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam have been sought after by Chinese travelers, Tuniu found.
Meanwhile, domestic carriers have been ramping up efforts to launch or resume more international flights to cater to growing summer air travel demand. Beginning July 1, Shanghai-based private carrier Juneyao Airlines launched flights from Beijing Daxing International Airport to Japan and South Korea.
Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines plans to increase the frequency of its flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Tokyo and Busan, South Korea, to its daily flight lineup. And from July 2, China Eastern added more flights connecting Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and Tokyo to three times a week, it said.
The International Air Transport Association projects that some 4.35 billion people are expected to travel by air in 2023, which is closing in on the 4.54 billion who took to the skies in 2019. This year, total revenue of carriers around the world is expected to grow 9.7 percent year-on-year to $803 billion. This is the first time that industry revenue will top the $800 billion mark since 2019, which recorded a total revenue of $838 billion.
IATA's passenger polling data in May found that 41 percent of travelers indicated that they expected to take more trips in the next 12 months than in the previous year, and 49 percent expected to undertake the same level of travel. Moreover, 77 percent of respondents indicated that they were already traveling as much or more than they did prior to the pandemic.
"Airline financial performance in 2023 is beating expectations. Stronger profitability is supported by several positive developments. China lifted COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year than anticipated," said Willie Walsh, IATA's director-general.
In the meantime, domestic industry observers said traditional sightseeing tours have seen some challenges, such as product homogenization and insufficient marketing appeal. Themed tours, such as trips coupled with research and learning, are expected to gain more favor from travelers.
For the design of research-themed trips, features of learning, instead of travel alone, have been constantly highlighted. After the national college entrance examination concluded in early June, a large number of recent graduates have shown a growing desire to tour university campuses.
In Beijing, Peking University, Tsinghua University, the Forbidden City and the National Museum of China are on the list of top destinations among research-themed trips, according to tourism industry expert Xiao Yuanshan.
Between June 9 and June 12, or right after the national college entrance examination wrapped up, the number of flights booked by travelers aged between 17 and 19 jumped significantly, and booking volumes surged threefold over the previous week, according to Beijing-based online travel agency Qunar.
In addition, as China has been experiencing continuous sweltering temperatures nationwide, taking a summer vacation to seaside cities has become the first choice for many people. Popular destinations include Xiamen, Fujian province; Qingdao and Weihai of Shandong province; Haikou and Sanya of Hainan province; and Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, said Qunar.
In June, the search volume of keywords such as "seasides, folk customs, rural areas, parent-child travel", and "taking trips to neighboring areas" surged 280 percent over May, according to Tujia, an online homestay operator.