Tourism industry shows strong signs of recovery

Su Yanxian
China's tourism rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels during the May Day holiday as travel-hungry Chinese made 274 million domestic trips during the five-day break.
Su Yanxian

China's tourism industry is showing strong signs of recovery, with industry operators and tourists confident about a travel boom in the summer vacation, and expecting long-distance outbound tours to resume to the 2019 level next year.

China's tourism rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels during the May Day holiday as travel-hungry Chinese made 274 million domestic trips during the five-day break, 19 percent more than during 2019, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said. In Shanghai, the cumulative number of visitors to the city's major tourist attractions returned to the level of the same period in 2019.

The travel boom for domestic tourism would continue in the second half of this year, and long-distance outbound travel was gradually recovering with the loosening of visa policies and more flight options, industry operators said at a meeting on Wednesday.

The China Tourism Academy predicted that the number of domestic tourists would reach approximately 4.55 billion in 2023, an increase of about 80 percent from a year earlier, and that domestic tourism revenue would reach about 4 trillion yuan (US$576 billion), a year-on-year increase of about 95 percent. The number of inbound and outbound tourists was expected to exceed 90 million throughout the year, doubling year-on-year.

With multiple support policies, the warming market has injected a "stimulant" for relevant industry operators.

"2023 is a crucial year for global travel," said Anthony Lu, regional director of Partner Services and Business Operations in China of, a leading travel company. "Leveraging the platform's strengths and insights into future travel trends, we will continue to listen to the voices of every traveler, and we are examining every part of the trip to provide comprehensive solutions for Chinese travelers."

Tourism industry shows strong signs of recovery
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Outbound travelers at Hongqiao Railway Station on April 29. Travel-hungry Chinese made 274 million domestic trips during the five-day break, 19 percent more than during 2019.

Tourism industry shows strong signs of recovery
Dong Jun / SHINE

Shanghai Zoo was packed with tourists during May Day holiday.

To better serve tourists, surveyed 24,179 tourists in 31 countries and regions, and found that Chinese tourists were looking for more back-to-basics experiences, virtual voyages, complete culture shock, nostalgic getaways, and sustainable tourism options.

About 65 percent of Chinese travelers wanted their travel experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel and to experience life with only the bare necessities. Seventy-eight percent of travelers were also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills, such as looking for water sources and building a fire in the wild.

Seventy-five percent of travelers reported they would look to virtual reality next year to inspire their vacation choices, while 74 percent were more likely to travel to destinations they wouldn't have previously considered after experiencing them virtually.

Eighty-two percent of travelers wanted to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it traveling somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages (66 percent) or exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that were not already on the radar (26 percent).

Amid global instability and a desire for escapism, people intended to carve out travel experiences that hearkened back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways (96 percent) that provided the thrill of reliving one's glory days top of the wish list in 2023.

With the background of global economic uncertainty, 70 percent of travelers said that investing in a vacation remained a top priority for them. But being budget conscious was key, with nearly eight in 10 travelers continuing to spotlight travel offering more bang for their buck.

According to Lu, traveling more sustainably continued to be front of mind for travelers, with three-quarters believing people needed to act now and make more sustainable choices. Eighty-nine percent of Chinese travelers said they wanted to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, and 70 percent were willing to pay extra for travel options with sustainable certification, to preserve the planet for future generations.

Tourism industry shows strong signs of recovery

People experience a virtual reality tour.

Dai Bin, director of the China Tourism Academy, believes that under multiple effects, the recovery and development of China's tourism industry would play an important role in promoting consumption growth and upgrading, injecting strong power for the recovery of global tourism.

According to data from Tianyancha, more than 141,000 new tourism-related companies were registered in the first quarter of this year, up 11.5 percent from the same period in 2022. According to research data from the China Tourism Academy, 77.9 percent of surveyed companies expressed optimistic attitudes toward the industry development of tourism companies in the second quarter, while 82.1 percent expressed optimism for the whole year prediction.

"We can see people's passion for travel during this May Day holiday after a long hiatus due to the pandemic," said Yu Beibei, a travel influencer who has traveled to more than 40 countries and regions. "We see the trends in the travel market: younger groups and more personalized travel products."

She gave "special forces-style tourism," which went viral during the May Day holiday, as an example. Heading to the train station straight after work on Friday, checking in at a minimum of eight tourism attractions in one day for three consecutive days, hopping on a late-night train and returning to work or lectures by 8 o'clock the next morning – The travel practice of visiting as many sights as possible within the shortest period of time has become a popular trend amongst China's young tourists.

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