Self-driving becomes mainstream in holidays and gives rentals a boost

Hu Min
A boom in high-end self-driving tours has emerged from people's concerns about safety and comfort as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
Hu Min

Will you take a self-driving tour in the upcoming National Day holiday?

Tong Minmin, a Shanghai resident, is planning a trip to Dali, a popular destination in Yunnan Province.

"I originally considered hiring a local driver or joining a small tour group, but finally dropped the idea as it is more convenient to self-drive for safety and comfort, particularly when I travel with my parents who are 70," Tong said.

There has been a surge in vehicle rental bookings during major holidays before and after the pandemic, rising over 40 percent, a white paper jointly released by Shanghai-based online travel operator and German automaker Audi revealed.

A boom in high-end self-driving tours has emerged from people's concerns about safety and comfort as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

The study on travel trend said self-driving has become the mainstream transportation means of Chinese tourists, followed by chartered buses and motorcycles.

The percentage of high-end vehicle rental bookings by air travelers is growing over years, hitting 34 percent in 2021 compared with 28 percent in 2020 and 23 percent a year earlier, according to the white paper.

Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hangzhou have the largest amount of vehicle rental bookings and, in beach resorts such as Sanya, vehicle rental orders by tourists are growing quickly, the report said.

Upgrades, customized tour experiences, and high-end transportation demands are new trends in the tourism market under the impact of COVID-19, said Wang Wei, vice president of Group.

"An increasing number of tourists are pursuing 'enjoyment' and comfort in travel experiences, leading to strong demand for self-driving tours, and particularly in the quality of vehicles," said Wang.

Popular destinations and activities

Niche destinations and tourist attractions featuring exploration of nature and camping are gaining popularity with travelers pursuing high-end experiences in the post-pandemic era, Wang added. and SAIC Audi have inked a strategic cooperation agreement to jointly develop customized travel services blending tours, catering, activities, shopping and sightseeing to create more diversified tourism options and enrich the travel experience.

Another online travel operator, Tuniu, said 43 percent of people booking tour products for the upcoming National Day holiday, between October 1 and 7, are self-driving tourists. Short-distance trips are dominating the holiday tourism market, Tuniu said.

Shanghai Disney Resort, Qiandao Lake, Tianmu Lake, Chimelong Paradise and Universal Beijing Resort are the most popular destinations for self-driving tourists, according to Tuniu.

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