By Yin Jie, People's Daily
Outbound tourism has been reviving fast in China since the country resumed outbound group travel on Feb. 6.
A Feb. 17 NokAir flight from Zhengzhou, central China's Henan province, to Thailand, was packed with three Chinese tourist groups.
Seats were booked up in just seconds for the first group tour to New Zealand launched by Chinese travel giant Ctrip after the outbound tourism resumption, which is scheduled to depart from Shanghai on March 18.
Besides, Beijing has been seeing an increasing number of citizens applying for and replacing passports in recent days.
Governments and tourism industry of many countries have extended their warm welcome to the Chinese tourists.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association estimated that Thailand would see the arrivals of 500,000 Chinese tourists in the next two months. The association believes that the tourism industry in the Asia-Pacific region will embrace a strong recovery thanks to the comeback of Chinese travelers.
Through Chinese tourists, the world is seeing the vitality and potential of the economy of China and thus gaining confidence in the revival of the global tourism market.
Most of the 20 countries to which China has resumed group travel are friendly to Chinese tourists in terms of visa application, transport, and entry policies.
The Maldives is one of the hottest island destinations among Chinese tourists. According to statistics released by Alibaba Group's travel-services platform Fliggy, the search volume for air tickets to the Maldives on the platform surged nearly tenfold after a mutual visa exemption agreement between China and the Maldives officially took effect recently. The page view of the Maldives on Ctrip also doubled in just half an hour.
China had remained as the largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives for years before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maldives Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom said the Maldives earlier forecast 1.8 million tourists for this year, and at least 10 percent increase is expected from the original forecast as Chinese tourists who had contributed a lot to the tourism market of the Maldives, are arriving again.
The improved frequency of international flights also contributed to the revival of China's outbound tourism.
Shang Kejia, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a recent press conference that China has resumed regular passenger flights with 58 countries, adding that the number of international flights is expected to increase further.
Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Sydney, and Kuala Lumpur have become the most popular outbound travel destinations for Chinese tourists.
As more passengers renew their passports, the number of Chinese outbound tourists will hit several other peaks, said Zhao Nan with Umetrip, a popular flight booking app.
The global tourism industry will get a strong boost as China, one of the world's largest outbound tourism markets before the pandemic, resumed outbound group tours starting from Feb 6, industry experts said.
An employee of a travel agency in Maldives that has started receiving Chinese tourist groups told People's Daily that he's happy to see the comeback of Chinese travelers as it is definitely good news for the travel agency and the country as a whole.
"China's resumption of outbound group travel is crucial to boosting the confidence of the world, especially that of the Asia-Pacific region. China welcomes more countries to share the dividends of its outbound tourism," said Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy.
He noted that Chinese tourists' demand has changed after COVID-19, and the tourists now have a preference for quality while focusing on safety. "It's hoped that destination countries and regions can treat Chinese tourists fairly and offer high-quality tourism products," Dai added.
This change has been noticed by the tourism departments of many countries and they have tailored new measures for Chinese tourists.
Yang Yu, chief representative of Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions in China, said tourism businesses in the Netherlands are constantly improving their services and offering services for Chinese tourists through digital approaches. Mobile payment is now promoted on a wider scale in the country, he added.
South Africa tailored contactless check-in and other digital services for Chinese tourists and rolled out new policies to improve their satisfaction, hoping that Chinese tourists can have safe and relaxing trips in the Rainbow Nation, said Mansoor Mohamed, Hub Head of Asia Pacific for South African Tourism.
It is believed that the list of destinations for China's outbound group travel will get longer and longer in the near future, and the country will contribute more to the development of global tourism.