The arrival of summer, coupled with the ease of COVID restrictions, has led to a tourism boom of “revenge travel” throughout the Chinese mainland. As flight bookings soar, consumers’ expectations are also rising as they gradually shift their preferences to higher quality travelling.
According to online travel agency Qunar.com, there was a 60% surge in flight ticket enquiries after digital travel passes dropped the “COVID risk” asterisk. In addition, car rental bookings have increased by more than 180% year-on-year as more people embark on road trips and engage in outdoor activities.
One indication that demonstrates consumers’ intention to upgrade their travel experience is the surge in issued premium-class tickets. For travellers heading to luxury hotspot Sanya from Shanghai, for instance, premium-class travel has skyrocketed by 174% compared to 2019. Of these premium-class travellers, 55% travelled in families and 25% travelled in couples. Once on Hainan soil, these affluent travellers are likely to take advantage of the province’s renowned duty-free shopping.
Similarly, the cruise industry has experienced a subtle revamp with solo travellers exceeding 80% of high-end cruises. Michael Jones, director of Beijing-based Create Consulting that promotes travel brands in the China market, holds a positive outlook, believing that “with the very recent lifting of domestic travel restrictions for major Chinese cities there will, no doubt, be strong growth for domestic luxury travel and tourism. Luxury river and sea cruises are setting sail, and five-star resorts are welcoming Shanghai and Beijing residents back”.
At present, large low-cost travel groups are being replaced with smaller, high-end groups that provide quality in-depth tours. However, some places are struggling to keep up with the increasing demands of the market.
In Xinjiang, for instance, where most of the tourist attractions are located in remote locations, high-end hotels are few and far between. Other places like Yunnan, grappling with a large loss of employees in travel agencies, currently have a shortage of cars, drivers and tour guides.
Overall, as consumers gradually shift to higher-end travel and products, brands currently have the opportunity to capitalise on the summer influx of travellers while keeping in mind the need to meet consumer expectations.