IPK's findings in its latest surveys reflect a clearly positive trend: China's desire to travel is currently higher than in either of the two travel plans surveys conducted in the last two years. China's growing desire for more international travel over the next 12 months is laying a solid foundation for a strong recovery in 2024. That was also the message emerging from the ITB China that recently concluded in Shanghai. After the break due to the pandemic, the event brought together 10,000 attendees from the Chinese and global tourism industry live in Shanghai.
Compared with 2019, Chinese outbound travel is still far behind globally, with no recovery yet in sight. While in 2019 China was the fourth largest source market in the world with around 70 million trips abroad, in 2022 it was surpassed by numerous markets with much better recovery rates. Sustained and strict travel restrictions have resulted in a significant slowdown in the recovery.
Interesting travel plans for the next 12 months
The results of the latest IPK travel survey show that the desire to travel has returned in China: around 50 percent of those interviewed intend to travel abroad over the next 12 months and, if possible, more frequently than in the past. Another 44 percent want to take as many trips abroad as before, while only a single-digit percentage of respondents intend to take fewer trips abroad or none at all. Compared to previous surveys, this represents a significant trend towards increased outbound travel and reflects a growing desire to travel in China's outbound travel market.
Europe tops the list of favorite destinations
Looking at their travel plans for the next 12 months, Chinese travelers' preferred destinations are likely to be Europe, followed by travel within Asia. Over the same period, traveling to the United States will continue to be a less frequent option, due to a lack of flight options on the one hand and geopolitical reasons on the other. For six percent of those interviewed, travel within China is the only realistic option. Compared to previous surveys, there is a positive trend towards European destinations, while at the beginning of the year neighboring countries topped the list. The main reasons for this are the longing for distant destinations and the recovery of the market after Europe was practically inaccessible for the last three years.
High demand for cultural trips
More than 80 percent of Chinese respondents intend to spend their holidays abroad in the next 12 months. Compared to a survey earlier in the year, this represents an increase in vacation plans. Within the vacation segment, the attention of Chinese travelers over the next 12 months will clearly be on cultural trips. Thus, 60 percent plan a round trip abroad. Another 44 percent intend to take city breaks. Together with the strong interest in travel to Europe, this means that the chances of European cultural destinations making a full recovery are very good. However, compared to the last survey,
Changes in travel behavior mainly due to economic reasons
Looking at the bigger picture, the question naturally also arises as to how pandemic-related restrictions and the significant decline in travel over the past three years will affect travel behavior in China. In the IPK surveys, interviewees affirm that in the future they intend to save on travel expenses by traveling during off-peak hours and shortening their stay. In this way they intend to compensate for the significant increases in air fares that have occurred due to the lack of flights.
Another 25 percent of respondents would like to save money on accommodation in the future. However, more than 80 percent plan to stay in hotels during their trips abroad over the next 12 months. Other overnight options, such as holiday homes and apartments, are also seeing increased demand. Overall, Chinese travelers' spending remains very high and substantially higher than the world average.
Overall positive outlook for 2024 despite several obstacles
China's desire to travel, due among other things to the recovery of the market, the current and subsequent lifting of many travel restrictions and the fact that visas are being issued again for important destinations, is setting the tone for a recovery Gradual travel abroad from China. market. According to IPK surveys, the positive trend in this outbound travel market will continue over the next 12 months, so in the medium term there is a good chance that the market will return to 2019 levels in the foreseeable future. However, this process will take longer than in the large source markets of Europe and North America. The geopolitical impact on visa issuance and the slow growth of flight availability,
Above average interest in business trips
As before the pandemic, foreign business travel is an important market. About 30 percent of Chinese respondents plan a business trip abroad over the next 12 months. Compared to previous surveys, the figures here are stable, although also well above the world average. Within the business travel segment there is also a clear trend towards MICE trips. As in the past, VFR and other private travel will not have a significant impact on China's outbound travel market over the next 12 months.
Source: ITB BERLIN.