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REGIONS ASIA-PACIFIC


Chinesetourists arestayinghome W


THE RISE IN DOMESTIC TRAVEL IN CHINA POINTS TO BROADER TRENDS OF GROWTH IN THE LUXURY MARKET, DIGITISATION AND RURAL TOURISM, SETH O’FARRELL REPORTS


ith trains packed, roads congested and landmarks overcrowded, youwould be forgiven for thinking that China’s


Labour Day holiday celebrations were a portal into our pre-pandemic world. Hotspots such as the Broken Bridge in


Beijing and the Ancient City Wall in Xi’an wel- comed vast numbers of restriction-free travel- lers celebrating China’s weeklong festivities for International Workers’ Day, broadcasting an image of a country comfortably back in the swing of mass tourism. During the five-day break, there were 230


million domestic tourists travelling around China, according to estimates from the coun- try’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a year-on- year increase of 119.7% in terms of numbers and 138.1% in terms of revenue. A recent report from Bain Consultancy found that domestic travel in China is accelerating,while it has only just restarted in the US and is still lacking in Japan and Europe. At a time when the biggest threat to tour-


ism is the unpredictability of lockdowns due to flare-ups of the coronavirus, China, whose effective control of the virus continues into 2021, represents a self-contained, colossal mar- ket with a returning appetite for travel. While middle class growth rates are not


what they once were, luxury travel is on the rise, with foreign hotel operators taking note of the new digital consumer trends in the coun- try. Staycationers choosing rural destinations are also on the rise as they rediscover the coun- try’s most remote villages, not least in a year commemorating the 100 years since the found- ing of the ChineseCommunist Party (CCP).


Betonluxurytravel Stephen Ho, president of growth and opera- tions in Asia-Pacific at hotel group Hyatt, tells fDi that China is “a rapid growth market with huge potential” and “we have great confidence in China’s domestic tourism market because


China is one of the largest domestic tourism markets in the world”. In 2020, the multinational hotel chain set


up a joint venture with BTG Homeinns, one of China’s homegrown hotel giants, to set up its first five UrCove hotels in China (three in Shanghai, one in Chengdu and one in Nanjing). Mr Ho says this was to cater for a broader range of Chinese travellers and that “through market research and industry insights, we see a gap in the upper to mid-scale segment as Chinese consumers start to look for new and upgraded offerings”. China will see a total of 4.1 billion domestic


tourist trips in 2021, and will gain Rmb3300bn ($515.5bn) in revenue fromdomestic tourismin 2021, according to the latest report by the China Tourism Academy, an increase of 48% from 2020. The top tourist destinations are the top tier Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, along with Hainan, an island just off the country’s southern coast. Imogen Page-Jarrett, China analyst at the


Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), says she expects personal disposable income to grow but “not at the same rates as historical periods, since headline economic growth is slowing due to structural issues like high debt and declining labour force”. The EIU predicts that disposable income will


grow by 4.7% over the next five years. Between the years 2015 and 2019 this stood at 6.8%.


Netizens’ needs Onedevelopmentin the 2020s that was less pre- sent in the previous waves of middle class growth, however, will be the integrationof digi- tal devices and platforms. According to a September 2020 report from


global research and advisory firmGartner, ‘The Recovery of China’s Travel Industry’, the travel industry in China has shifted its marketing focus to emerging social platforms as a way to target young consumers, who comprise an


BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC, PEOPLEMAY VALUEMORERURAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS, FRESH AIRANDLESS CROWDEDPLACES


64 www.fDiIntelligence.com June/July 2021


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