Where will Chinese tourists travel after Covid?

Tourists enjoy eating in Yaowarat, or Bangkok's Chinatown.  (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Tourists enjoy eating in Yaowarat, or Bangkok’s Chinatown. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The proportion of mainland Chinese travelers who are “eager to travel” once allowed has more than doubled over the past year, according to a just-released survey.

It has been a difficult time for the Chinese travel industry. Quarantine, strict lockdown policies and inconvenience have all been cited as reasons for postponing domestic and international travel.

As Beijing begins to ease zero-Covid restrictions, the huge pent-up demand for international travel signals a strong recovery is imminent.

Thirty-eight percent of 1,003 respondents to a survey by marketing solutions company Dragon Trail International said they would book a vacation outside of mainland China within six months of the lifting of the quarantine on arrival.

Attitudes towards quarantine on arrival have shifted significantly – 59% of respondents now want it eased, up 20 percentage points since a spring survey – and tourism industry stakeholders who care about Chinese visitors should position themselves to embrace it to profit .

Additional findings from the survey, conducted between November 7 and 20 across 49 Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and released on Wednesday, include that more than 88% of respondents have concerns about their future impact on the environment and host communities expressed, suggesting eco-friendly accommodation and other tourist facilities with eco-friendly credentials will be well positioned to benefit when travel normalizes.

Chinese vacationers look for authentic experiences such as trying local food (60.8% expressed this preference) and lifestyles (56.7%). Providers of bed-and-breakfast accommodation should benefit, particularly properties outside of traditional landmarks.

Chinese travelers are cautious when it comes to safety – the number of respondents wanting to know if a potential travel destination is safe has increased, ranking second only to affordability when deciding on vacation choices.

Out of 15 destinations indicated, only Hong Kong saw a significant increase in its perception of being safe (47% vs. 37% in March).

When asked “If restrictions are allowed, where would you most like to travel to?”, Hong Kong ranks first, with Japan, Macau, Thailand and South Korea rounding out the top five destinations for potential mainland Chinese travelers’ wish lists.

Beach resorts are preferred by more than half of those surveyed by Dragon Trail International. With its 3,200km coastline, Thailand is sure to benefit from a return of Chinese visitors, while the report suggests the Maldives and Australia should also brace for an influx of Chinese beachgoers when restrictions are finally lifted.

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