Aviation Business News

Chinese flight capacity rebound poised to meet post-pandemic pent up demand

An expected recovery in flight capacity and measures to address visa application delays are expected to see the Chinese outbound market make a full recovery in 2024.

Having re-opened following the Covid pandemic, international air capacity to and from China remains about half that of pre-pandemic.

And many Chinese travellers are experiencing lengthy delays of three to six months applying to visas to the likes of the US and the Shengen area in Europe.

Although demand for travel is high, Chinese customers remain wary of health and safety and will consider this when choosing their destination, ITB Asia in Singapore heard this week.

Boon Sian Chai, Trip.com Group managing director and vice president international markets, for global online travel agent Trip.com, said the only county in the world that has yet see a true travel rebound is mainland China.

He said the strong sentiment within China for domestic travel will translate into outbound with over 60% of travellers saying they intend to travel outside of the country.

Next year’s Chinese New Year celebrations are due to take place over nine days and destinations like Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the US and the UK are expected to benefit from the bounce back.

“When borders opened in January that was really a catalyst for Asia. We saw a travel resurgence. We expect that the travel revenge is going to continue,” said Chai.

He added that Trip.com Group search data is showing definite signs of pent-up demand. “Overall, the sentiment and desire to travel outbound is really there. As we see fight capacity pick up we will see more business coming out of mainland China.”

Visa restrictions are a potential hurdle, added Chai, and he said the Chinese want to fly point-to-point while any destinations with safety concerns will worry customers.

The Chinese traveller is among the most tech and mobile savvy in the world and Chai said “at the same time they have high expectations” in terms of flexibility and being able to get their money back if there is a cancellation.

“They are definitely looking for flexibility. The more you are flexible, the more you will be able to attract these customers.… What they really want to do is experience.

“Do not just sell them a hotel room, have experiences in the hotel unique to your property. Do it as a package bundle.”

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