China: arrivals remain modest… should the visa requirement be removed?

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Thailand, like other countries, has still not returned to the record figures recorded in 2019. Unfortunately, the desertion of customers from mainland China has led the kingdom to take unprecedented commercial measures. We explain the reasons for the lack of tourists from China

Air transport is expensive internationally

A lack of affordable flights and long wait times for overseas travel visas have slowed China’s overseas recovery. Domestic airline capacity in China has fully recovered. However, that of international flights is still more than half below pre-pandemic levels. Capacity would still be down by nearly 5 million seats, according to the recently published “State of Travel 2023” report from Skift Research.

Great Wall of China

Domestic tourism is blazing in China

Another reason is that domestic tourism has gained in prestige and also in quality. In the first half of 2023, domestic tourism revenue (total tourism expenditure) reached 2.3 trillion RMB (about 350 billion euros), an increase of about 160 billion euros from the previous year. Notably, travel spending by urban residents accounted for a 108.9% year-on-year increase, while travel spending by rural residents increased by 41.5%.

The remarkable rebound in China’s domestic tourism sector can be attributed to a set of factors that differentiate it from the relatively slower recovery of outbound tourism. On the one hand, the domestic tourism industry appears less affected by uncertainties surrounding employment and income growth than other service and retail sectors.

This is mainly due to Chinese consumers’ strong desire to explore after years of mobility limitations imposed by the pandemic.

On the other hand, the prolonged resumption of outbound flights has further strengthened domestic tourism. Many people shifted their travel plans to China as international travel remained limited.

Chinese tourists

Travel to neighboring Asian countries has declined

Some destinations have received fewer tourists from China such as South Korea, Cambodia, Malaysia and even Singapore. Thailand was counting on this clientele to revive its tourism industry. The kingdom did not hesitate to offer a free visa for customers

The deterioration of ties between China and the West has not improved the situation

Geopolitics plays an important role on foreign travel. There are much fewer tourists to the United States. Europe is less affected, however Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine does not reassure the average Chinese.

According to recent data from Alipay’s overseas spending platform, average spending per user on overseas travel in the first half of 2023 increased by 24% compared to 2019. Among popular destinations, the top 10 top outbound travel destinations in terms of transaction volume for the first half of 2023. half of 2023 were:

  • Hong Kong;
  • Macau;
  • Japan;
  • Thailand;
  • France;
  • South Korea;
  • Australia;
  • Canada;
  • United Kingdom;
  • Singapore.

Expenses are down

Travel spending has also been disappointing this year as Chinese tourists tighten their budgets. The unemployment rate would be high, however the Chinese government no longer gives any indication on this subject.

However, interest is growing

Although 2023 has not materialized as much of the travel industry hoped, the number of Chinese leisure travelers who say they want to travel abroad has nearly doubled since last year, from 28 % to 52%, according to Morning Consult.

Similarly, company data shows that interest in business travel has almost tripled, while plans to travel abroad for study, seeing family and medical tourism are also on the rise.

This mirrors Skift’s report, which shows 50% of Chinese travelers say they plan to travel abroad in the next 12 months.

Reminder for a stay in Thailand

If you are a French citizen, you do not need a visa if your stay is less than 30 days. Beyond that you can apply for an electronic visa HERE

Catherine Mills Avatar