China approves sale of group outbound travel and packages from February

By Charlotte Turner |

In a significant development for the global travel industry, from 6 February, China will once again allow the sale of outbound group travel products, in addition to travel packages.


During a recent webinar on ‘Chinese travel for Lunar New Year and beyond’, hosted by Dragon Trail International and ForwardKeys, viewers were reminded that it was in late January 2020 when Chinese travel agencies were initially banned from selling outbound group travel products as well as packages that included a minimum of flight and hotel booking.


From 6 February, travel agencies and OTAs (online travel agencies) will be allowed to sell outbound group travel and travel packages for the following countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, UAE, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba, and Argentina.


As previously reported, from 8 January China recommenced issuing and renewing passports and announced that there would no longer be requirements for travellers to quarantine on return to China. There are now no flight restrictions in place or a need to present digital travel passes.


However, a 48-hour PCR test and health declaration for customs is still mandatory (according to information shared in the webinar which took place on 19 January).

The excellent 'Chinese Travel for Lunar New Year 2023 and Beyond' webinar was hosted by Sienna Parulis-Cook, Yelinuer Kadeerbieke and Nancy Dai.

The excellent ‘Chinese Travel for Lunar New Year 2023 and Beyond’ webinar was hosted by Sienna Parulis-Cook, Yelinuer Kadeerbieke and Nancy Dai.


The recent webinar provided a plethora of data on the Chinese traveller, using a variety of metrics.


Intention to travel outbound in 2023

According to Dragon Trail International – a marketing solutions company with roots in China and extensive experience in the global travel and MICE industries – more than 60% of respondents to a survey* conducted by Tencent from 3-7 January this year, said they want to travel outside mainland China this year.


The remaining 39.4% either have no plans to travel or will only do so domestically.

Interestingly, among other factors, the no 1 reason why travellers said they would not travel abroad, stipulated that salary impacted by Covid and ‘economic factors’, was a barrier.


Regarding preferred destinations among Chinese travellers, Dragon Trail suggested that the list largely resembled rankings drawn up pre-pandemic, with Hong Kong remaining the ‘clear top outbound destination for 2023’.

In a presentation delivered by Nancy Dai, Insights Expert for ForwardKeys, she confirmed what was earlier reported, that the easing of Covid controls have triggered a surge in bookings for domestic flights, with Sanya labelled ‘the hottest destination with the fastest recovery’.


Airline capacity crunch

Interestingly, she said that forward bookings for Chinese New Year were currently 47% behind pre-pandemic levels, but 30% ahead of last year.


In a concluding slide, she added that pent-up demand remains high and Southeast Asia is most likely to benefit first from the return of Chinese tourists.


However, importantly, the lack of flight frequencies and capacity combined with high fares could create a bottleneck for an industry desperate to return to the halcyon days of air travel, prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.


You can download a copy of Dragon Trail International’s Chinese Traveler Sentiment report by clicking here.


*The survey collected 1,058 responses from mainland China; 56% female/44% male.

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