Tour OperatorsPATA forum says China holds key to APAC travel recovery.

All eyes on India, but China still rules the roost

China is not expected to free its borders for travel until mid-2023.
China is not expected to free its borders for travel until mid-2023. Photo Credit: metamorworks/iStock/GettyImages

Is India the new China for outbound tourism? Will corporate retreats be the next big thing in business travel? Why is everyone waiting for China to recover?

These were some of the questions addressed by participants in PATA’s Visitor Forecast Update, titled The Impact of Reopening on Recovery Patterns.

While “cautious optimism” could best describe the responses to questions on the recovery outlook, the general view was that until China unlocked its borders and allowed outbound travel to resume, destinations in APAC would be slower to recover.

Haiyan Song, associate dean and professor on international tourism, School of Hotel and tourism Management, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said, “You're not going to recover very quickly when your largest source destination is closed and there’s no market for your tourism.”

Prof Song expects China to remain closed until mid-2023 but was less confident than panellist Mayur Patel, regional sales manager JPAC, OAG, that India could take up the slack within the next five years.

Patel said the delayed reopening of the China market has encouraged destination management companies to look at new source markets, including India.

“From a midterm perspective, India is a potential market for some South-east Asian countries to look at, rather than waiting for China to reopen,” Patel said.

Mohamed Bardastani, a senior director of business and economic insights at VISA, said despite many reports that business travel was dead, the evidence from VISA showed just the opposite.

He said cross border travel spend levels were healthy, although not yet back up to pre-pandemic levels.

“A space to watch, with the rise of virtual teams, the ease of using Zoom, I think a new form of travel will emerge, different forms of travel, like retreats for distributed teams,” Bardastani added.

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