Trip.com Group Ltd (9961. HK) is working with airlines and airports to support recovery in China’s cross-border travel capacity, and CEO Jane Sun expects levels to return to normal by the third quarter.
Travel in and out of China declined drastically from 2019 levels due to China’s zero-COVID limitations, which effectively closed China’s borders for three years until being reopened on Jan. 8 as part of Beijing’s policy deconstruction.
“Domestic travel for Chinese people traveling within China has already recovered to 2019 levels very rapidly,” Sun told Reuters on the sidelines of the forum in the ski resort of Davos.
“However, for outbound and inbound travel, we still have seen a shortage in the capacity because airlines and airports (outside China) laid off a lot of workers during the pandemic so it’ll take some time for them to retrain these people.”
According to Cirium, airlines are operating only 11% of pre-pandemic international capacity to and from China in January, with the proportion likely to grow to roughly 25% by April based on current statistics. Sun said that the pandemic had changed Chinese vacationers’ expectations.
Trip.com was also recommending worldwide partners create packages with explicit safety precautions and shorter booking periods, as Chinese passengers were increasingly waiting longer before making their bookings, she noted.
The company was experiencing an increase in desire for smaller-group travel rather than the massive tours that many Chinese had traditionally chosen, as well as demand from younger travelers for more sustainable accommodations.