DestinationsChinese holiday travel nudges up on last year’s figures.

Chinese urged to stay home and take the cash

The holiday island of Hainan has been popular during the pandemic. Here, the Sheraton Sanya Haitang Bay Resort.
The holiday island of Hainan has been popular during the pandemic. Here, the Sheraton Sanya Haitang Bay Resort.

A new report from ForwardKeys has unveiled a good news-bad news outlook for Chinese travel over the Lunar New Year.

In the build-up to February 1, Forward Keys data showed flight bookings for the holiday period were 75.4% below pre-pandemic levels. Encouragingly, they were 5.9% ahead of last year’s levels.

Analysis of the most-booked destinations reveals that leisure travel is “the light in what would otherwise be a gloomy outlook”.

Chinese authorities expect 1.18 billion trips to be made during the travel season for Lunar New Year, although state and provincial governments are doing all they can to persuade people to stay at home this year.

Measures include notifying governments of travel plans, PCR tests pre-departure and on arrival and, in some places, a requirement of 14 days of home quarantine.

Many Chinese cities are offering money or food and entertainment vouchers to those who decided not to travel over the holiday period.

Some destinations are performing better than others, according to Forward Keys, which gathers and analyses air ticketing information.

Of those, Changchun, Shenyang and Harbin offer winter sports resorts, whose popularity has risen ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games - due to start on 4 February.

Among the most resilient beach destinations are Sanya and Haikou, which are both located on Hainan, China’s holiday island in the South China Sea. According to Hainan’s commerce department, the number of duty-free shoppers grew by 73% in 2021 and sales increased by 83%, a surge driven by the number of Chinese travellers holidaying at home.

Bing Han Kee, VP Sales – APAC, at ForwardKeys, said, “I am not yet ready to give up hope of a last-minute recovery [in CNY travel numbers].

“I am also impressed by the strongly growing enthusiasm for winter sports, which I am sure has been encouraged by publicity surrounding the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.”

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