Chinese scour the net for travel destinations

Searches for tour products involving overseas destinations have increased significantly since China’s further relaxation of COVID-19 controls, according to travel operators.

China’s National Health Commission has announced that starting from January 8, the country will end central quarantine for international arrivals and scrap flight bans, with COVID-19 now downgraded from Class A to Class B in infectious disease management.

According to Mafengwo, a Chinese travel services and social networking website, searches for outbound tours increased by 460 percent as of Tuesday morning compared with the same period the day before, with key words such as “visa,” “passport” and “travel preparation” being the most searched.

According to its instantaneous search statistics, Bangkok, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Singapore and Osaka are the most popular overseas destinations.

“The continuous relaxation of COVID controls will relieve travel demand, and the upcoming Spring Festival holiday is expected to be the first significant turning point of the outbound tourism market,” said Feng Rao, the website’s tourism analyst.

Sherry Zhang, a Shanghai travel enthusiast, is planning a trip to the United States in March and was excitedly checking air tickets at midnight after the commission’s statement.

She posted her previous flight ticket from Frankfurt to Shanghai on WeChat Moments.

“It was my last outbound trip before the pandemic; now it’s time to pack my bags and go!” she exclaimed. “It has been far too long.”

“Happiness comes unexpectedly,” said another young Shanghai resident, Le Xiaowei.

“I’d like to visit Japan or Canada in the new year because they’ve been on my bucket list for far too long.”

According to Shanghai-based online travel operator, searches for popular overseas destinations increased tenfold within half an hour of the statement’s release.

It said that outbound flight and hotel searches have reached a three-year high.

The most searches were on Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom. Relevant searches for group tours for the Spring Festival increased sixfold from normal.

“Chinese mainland tourists have made significant contributions to the international travel market, particularly in Asia,” said Fang Zeqian, a tourism analyst. “We expect the Asian tourism market to see more Chinese tourists after the relaxation.

“The relaxation of COVID controls will make overseas trips easier. The snow has melted, and the spring outbound tour is due.”

Tongcheng Travel said the most popular destinations following the relaxation are Japan, South Korea and Thailand, with tourists from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou accounting for the majority of searchers.

Shanghai Spring Tour stated that it has already begun replanning outbound tour products and services based on demand.

“We are screening resources and transportation for outbound destinations, as well as having discussions with our partners about relevant products,” said Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of Shanghai Spring Tour.

“We are gathering our staff from outbound tour service departments and offering training depending on the changes,” she added.

PCR testing and centralized quarantine for all inbound travelers will be cancelled, according to the statement.

They must still take a PCR test 48 hours before departure and can only enter China if the results are negative, though there is no need to apply for a health code from Chinese embassies or consulates.

International flight bans will also be lifted, according to the statement.

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