China outbound travel surges ahead of ‘Golden Week’ holidays

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China’s homegrown C919 passenger jet departs Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport for Beijing Capital International Airport during its maiden commercial flight in Shanghai on May 28, 2023.

VCG | Getty Images

Outbound travel from China is surging ahead of the first “Golden Week” holiday period since the country has allowed international travel to resume and even as China’s economic growth has slowed.

Bookings for popular foreign destinations such as Singapore, Australia and Thailand have increased 20 times compared to the same holiday period last year, travel provider Trip.com said in a press release Monday. Golden Week, which begins Oct. 1 this year, marks the annual weeklong period that includes the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day in China.

More than in previous years, travelers are seeking out “unique and immersive experiences,” Trip.com CEO Jane Sun said in the press release. Data shows an increase in purchases of private group tours as well as bookings for less-popular destination such as Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, the travel provider said.

“We’ve observed a significant shift towards high-quality services and in-depth travel encounters,” Sun said in the release. “Travelers are not just exploring popular destinations but also seeking authentic and off-the-beaten-path experiences.”

The surge in bookings comes after China lifted Covid-19 travel restrictions in December and ended a ban on group tours to a list of more than 70 countries in August. The U.K. and South Korea, two countries that Trip.com said are seeing more travel from China, were included on the list.

Although more than six months have passed since China fully reopened its borders, experts have not observed a widely expected boom in travel out of the country. Instead, many residents chose to stay home because they preferred to or because they were confronted with difficult or costly options for traveling internationally.

At the same time, domestic travel has recovered. Trip.com said bookings for travel within China are up four times compared with last year’s Golden Week, with residents opting to travel between different provinces for longer periods of time. Northwest China’s autumnal tours and South China’s comfortable climate have made those destinations particularly popular, Trip.com said.

Golden Week typically spurs hundreds of millions of people in China to travel. Even with pandemic restrictions, for example, the country logged 637 million domestic travelers in 2020. The holiday period is known for boosting shopping and tourism among residents.

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