The demand for outbound travel from China has been on the rise with Chinese travelers increasingly exploring destinations beyond their own borders. This surge in demand can be attributed to several factors, including rising incomes and an expanding middle class in China, as well as a growing interest in international travel and tourism.
Chinese travelers are seeking out new and exciting experiences, with many opting for cultural and adventure-based travel, as well as popular tourist destinations. The United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia have emerged as some of the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers, with millions of tourists visiting these regions each year.
As Chinese Labor Day (May 1) approaches, there has been a continuous surge in demand, especially as it is one of the most preferred travel times for mainland Chinese tourists. The season has recorded a three-year peak in outbound travel bookings from mainland China, with a staggering 470% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
Outbound Travel Soars as Quarantine Restrictions Lifted
With the Chinese government lifting quarantine restrictions for travelers arriving from January 8, outbound flight bookings from mainland China surged by 247% on the day of the announcement.
Before the pandemic, China had the largest number of travelers visiting foreign destinations. In 2019, approximately 150 million Chinese tourists traveled internationally, spending $277 billion on global tourism, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the China Tourism Academy.
Although mainland China is still at 21% of its 2019 outbound booking levels, the first quarter of 2023 witnessed a 331% increase in outbound bookings from mainland China compared to the previous year. International airline capacity is at 37% of its April 2019 availability, according to OAG. A McKinsey survey reveals that 40% of respondents from mainland China are eager to travel internationally, with pent-up demand driving the trend.
Travelport data shows that Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR topped the list of destinations booked by travelers from mainland China, followed by Thailand, the United States, and South Korea. Notably, the duration of trips has decreased, with a higher percentage of 2-day and 3-4-day trips. This trend favors closer destinations, such as Hong Kong and Macau, which claim the top two spots. The majority (71%) of all available flights from mainland China are bound for Asia Pacific.
Chinese Labor Day
Chinese Labor Day, celebrated annually on May 1, has become one of the most popular times of the year for travel due to the three-day break that accompanies it.
This year, from April 24 through May 7, which encompasses the week of Labor Day and the preceding week, travelers are seizing the opportunity to take extended vacations. As a result of the high demand, outbound travel from mainland China during this period has hit a three-year peak, with bookings up by 470% when compared to last year. Interestingly, travelers during this time period tend to take longer trips, with a significant increase in trips lasting more than 10 days. As a result, destinations further away have surged in popularity, with the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States all ranking in the top 10.