Lunar New Year bookings surge

SHANGHAI, 7 February 2024: In the lead-up to the Chinese New Year holiday season, international travel from China has risen 10 times, fuelled by more relaxed visa policies, particularly to Asian destinations reported earlier this week.

Assessing the state of play in China’s outbound and inbound travel markets during one of its busiest travel seasons of the year, forecasts the festive month will deliver a record 9 billion inter-regional movements, with 8 February — the eve of Reunion Day — the busiest travel day of the season.

Photo credit Xinhua: Adora Magic City at the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal in east China’s Shanghai.

A surge in travel across Asia 

Booking trends indicate China’s outbound travellers favour short-haul routes, with Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea emerging as their preferred choices. Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are popular destinations.

Relaxed visa requirements have largely fueled the surge in bookings for trips in the Asia Pacific region. Since July last year, China has announced bilateral visa-free arrangements for more than 10 countries. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have seen a spike in search volume following the announcement of mutual visa exemptions for 30-day visits. For instance, searches for Singapore tourism products increased more than 30% month-on-month shortly after the visa-free announcement between Singapore and China. Similarly, Thailand saw searches for flights and hotels rise more than six times after signing the mutual visa exemption agreement on 28 January.

Amid the global travel surge, travel to the Middle East is also on the rise, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) emerging as a focal point due to favourable visa policies and convenient arrival procedures. Dubai and Qatar are popular destinations, with the United Arab Emirates recording one of the highest volumes of guided tours.

Family travel leads

Furthermore, family-centric travel has taken centre stage during the Spring Festival, constituting 47% of all travellers this year – a 5% increase from the previous year. This shift underscores the growing significance of family-focused journeys during the holiday season. Families make the most of their holidays by embracing various travel preferences by renting cars for flexibility, opting for customised tours to cater to their unique needs, and hiring local guides to curate personalised and memorable experiences.

Spring Festival attractions 

The top Spring Festival attractions differ between Asia and Europe, with theme parks in Asia’s spotlight. Europe beckons travellers with its rich cultural heritage and history, predominantly showcasing museums, historical landmarks, and city sites. 

For tourists exploring Asia, iconic names like Universal Studios Singapore, Warner Bros Harry Potter Tokyo, Tokyo DisneySea, and South Korea’s Everland are the star attractions. These attractions are top-rated among tourists from Malaysia, Thailand, China, South Korea, and Japan. In contrast, European destinations favoured by Asian tourists are museums and enchanting cityscapes, where landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, and Musee d’Orsay are preferred.

Cruises more popular

Cruise tourism, too, emerged as a major draw during the Spring Festival, with sold-out schedules for cruise ships sailing from Shanghai and strong demand in Hong Kong and Singapore. The famous Italian cruise line Costa Serena and RWS’ Genting Dream depart from Hong Kong and Singapore. The two ports are nearly at total capacity with limited availability remaining. This year, the average window for bookings is 35 days earlier than in 2019, indicating a substantial increase in early cruise reservations and growing demand.

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