$1.3 trillion to lift China’s tourism sector as domestic travelers flock back

In 2019, Chinese tourists spent $248 billion abroad, accounting for 14 percent of global tourism spending
$1.3 trillion to lift China’s tourism sector as domestic travelers flock back
Chinese domestic tourism set to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

Chinese domestic tourists are forecast to pump a record 6.8 trillion yuan (roughly $1.3 trillion) into the mainland economy this year – surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council and Oxford Economics, spending by Chinese holidaymakers is expected to be 11 percent higher than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic brought most travel to a halt.

“Chinese visitors are starting to travel again and this is only going to continue to grow,” said Julia Simpson, president of the travel council. “The tourism sector has shown signs of resilience and a strong recovery.”

Chinese travelers remain key for global tourism

Chinese travelers have long been a driving force for the global tourism industry, with many countries eagerly awaiting their return. In 2019, Chinese tourists made 170 million trips abroad and spent almost $248 billion overseas, accounting for 14 percent of global tourism spending.

Reverse travel trend keeps Chinese tourists closer to home

However, the lingering effects of the pandemic, including a backlog in visa processing in countries like the United States and more expensive international flights, have kept Chinese travelers closer to home. They are flocking to domestic cities for popular local delicacies and smaller towns, in a “reverse travel” trend that avoids crowds.

Read more: China introduces visa-free entry for tourists entering on cruise ships

Inbound tourism to China remains sluggish

Meanwhile, international visitors to China have yet to rebound fully. Spending by foreign tourists on the mainland this year is expected to reach 715 billion yuan, about 25 percent below 2019 levels. China was one of the last major economies to reopen its borders, and inbound flights have not yet fully recovered.

China eases visa restrictions to boost inbound tourism

In recent months, China has loosened visa restrictions for visitors from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and some European countries, as well as cruise ship passengers, in an effort to boost both inbound tourism and investment. At the beginning of 2024, Beijing reported that it had eased visa requirements for 11 countries since July 2023.

Despite the overall economic slowdown and sluggish retail spending, the tourism and travel sector has remained one of the stronger consumption categories in China. The industry is estimated to have supported around 80 million tourism and travel jobs this year, about 2 percent below 2019 levels.

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