Leading global online travel agency Trip.com Group expects to see air supply return as outbound travel demand recovers following the re-opening of international borders in January.
James Liang, co-founder and executive chairman of the board of Trip.com Group, told this week’s ITB Asia trade show he was confident travel will return to double digit growth.
Booming domestic travel in China is part of what is being called the post-Covid ‘revenge travel’ phenomenon, but international air capacity to China remains 55% below 2019 levels.
Liang said for Chinese travellers desperate to resume overseas trips ongoing health and safety concerns and visa delays are the only things holding them back as well as the lack of flights.
“It’s not that demand is not there,” he said in the keynote address opening ITB Asia in Singapore, “it’s just that supply is not there.
“Chinese travellers have been travelling domestically in China and growth of travel is demand is normally much higher than GDP growth. Usually the travel industry grows at double digits at least.”
Liang said Trip.com Group is seeing higher growth because it is taking market share as it sees pent-up demand from all the international markets the OTA now operates in.
“Growth is very robust. When flight capacity and the visa situation comes back to normal the Chinese traveller will definitely come back.”
Trip.com Group expects destinations favoured by the Chinese in Asia, as well as further afield like the US, Dubai and UK to do very well when the recovery takes hold.
Jane Sun, Trip.com Group chief executive, said a lot of new flights have recently been reinstated and she expects flight capacity to have recovered by 30% by the end of 2023 and full recover next year.
“Flight capacity is recovering for all regions, particularly in the US. Demand is already back to 2019 levels based on our search data.
“On the supply side there are two hurdles – the time it is taking to apply for a visa and flight capacity.”
Sun said currently it is taking three to six months to be granted a visa for the Shengen region and the US, while other countries like Thailand, Singapore and Dubai have speeded up their processes.
She added that this us leading to shorter booking windows as Chinese travellers wait for their visas to be approved before making a commitment on where to travel.
Customers are also prioritising safety, travelling in smaller groups like families or with close friends and, for younger generations, sustainability.
Trip.com Group is showing emissions data for flights based on aircraft type so its users can opt for the greenest option when booking to limit their carbon footprint.
Ahead of this year’s ITB Asia, Trip.com Group held its first ever overseas global partner summit which saw 2,000 hotel, flight and other suppliers attend a conference on Sentosa island in Singapore.