Chinese tourists dance with puppets as they are welcomed on arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Samut Prakarn province, Thailand, Sept 25, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
BEIJING - "Knowing that Thailand has lifted visa requirements for Chinese visitors, my mother and I made a quick decision to visit Thailand for a few days," 25-year-old Tian Yumeng told Xinhua.
Tian's thinking represents that of many Chinese tourists. As the National Day holiday kicks off, millions of Chinese have decided to shun "staycations" and embark on journeys to explore the world, and the traveling spree during this period is expected to drive a global tourism boom.
Pent-up travel craze
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was the largest contributor to outbound tourism, with 170 million trips, bringing in $253 billion for the global economy, Forbes reported.
"China has finally reopened, and we're seeing that complete rebound," Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told Xinhua during the recently held Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macao, China.
China is expected to see an average of 1.58 million daily inbound and outbound passenger trips during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, a roughly threefold increase year-on-year, according to the National Immigration Administration forecast on Wednesday
According to data released by the China Tourism Academy in July, in the first half of 2023, outbound tourism destinations received a total of 40.37 million visitors from the Chinese mainland, with 93.95 percent of the tourists concentrated on touring in Asia.
Travel agencies in China have already resumed providing group tours to a longer list of countries and regions, including Japan, Britain, the United States, and Australia since Aug 10.
Trip.com, a Chinese online travel agency, said in a recent report that the outbound tourism market has witnessed remarkable growth during the National Day holiday period, with bookings skyrocketing nearly 20 times compared to the previous year.
Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Britain were among the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers, according to the agency.
"It's exciting to witness this surge in travel bookings as we approach the Golden Week holiday. This year's holiday season reflects a strong desire among travelers for unique and immersive experiences," Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, was quoted as saying by PRNewswire.
China is expected to see an average of 1.58 million daily inbound and outbound passenger trips during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, a roughly threefold increase year-on-year, according to the National Immigration Administration forecast on Wednesday.
As Chinese tourists are embracing "revenge holidays" with enthusiasm, it seems that some destination countries will anticipate an unprecedented resurgence in tourism.
Chinese tourists take selfies with Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (right) on their arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Samut Prakarn province, Thailand, Sept 25, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
When some 341 visitors from Shanghai landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday, they were greeted with flowers and applause by Thailand's new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and other senior officials.
"This marks a promising first day for Thailand as we welcome Chinese tourists under the new visa-free entry policy," Srettha said at the airport's welcoming ceremony.
Srettha noted that ensuring tourist safety is their top priority, right from the moment visitors set foot in the country until they depart with a memorable experience.
To achieve this, several staff from the tourism police department are present at the airport, using Mandarin to introduce and assist tourists in downloading an app, all as part of their ongoing efforts to enhance safety and ensure a seamless travel experience in Thailand.
Many countries have rolled out policies ahead of the holiday this year to welcome more tourists. Australia, for example, recommenced the visa process for Chinese group travelers, according to an official statement.
Tourism Australia, the Australian government agency responsible for attracting international visitors to Australia, greeted the first Chinese tour group that arrived in the country on Friday.
China was the most valuable inbound traveler market for the Australian visitor economy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the office of Australia's minister for trade and tourism said in a media release on Monday, adding that Australia is ready and excited to welcome back Chinese group tours.
Chinese tourists take photos in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, in Australia, on Sept 27, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
According to research conducted by VisitBritain, flight bookings from China to Britain are currently at 43 percent of 2019 levels
"I can tell you that the Australian tourism industry has been waiting for this moment," said Phillipa Harrison, Tourism Australia's managing director.
For many countries around the world, Chinese tourists are an increasingly important driver of growth and the surge in travels during the National Day holiday could translate into a much-needed economic boost for host countries, presenting golden opportunities for local tourism, hospitality, and retail sectors.
A special week hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government kicked off on Thursday for the first time in four years and will last through Oct 6. The city government, in particular, expects a high number of Chinese tourists to visit the country during this year's six-day Chuseok holiday, a traditional mid-autumn harvest festival in South Korea.
To welcome and entertain more Chinese tourists, the city government collaborated with Chinese credit card company UnionPay to offer special discount coupons at department stores, duty-free shops and convenience stores in Seoul.
"The city government hopes the welcome week, resuming after four years, will help revive tourism in Seoul," said Kim Young-hwan, director-general of the Tourism and Sports Bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
The holiday is also expected to give Britain-bound tourism a boost as the latest figures show flight bookings have increased to almost half of pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, the country's tourism chief told Xinhua.
Patricia Yates, chief executive officer of VisitBritain, the official tourism website of Britain, said that China was an important inbound visitor market for her country.
According to research conducted by VisitBritain, flight bookings from China to Britain are currently at 43 percent of 2019 levels. This compares with January of this year, when bookings were just 6 percent of 2019 levels.
"We can see recovery in scheduled direct international airline capacity between China and the UK as 2023 continues. Airline seat capacity from China to the UK first met 2019 levels in August and is set to exceed that by 6 percent in September," said a spokesperson for VisitBritain.
HONG KONG NEWS