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China Travel Volume Beats 2019, But USA Lags Behind: Weekly Highlights

Family travel and theme parks dominate Spring Festival trends, Ireland and Switzerland get China visa-free treatment, and rebounding China travel numbers limited to Asia-Pacific, for now. Meanwhile, Ctrip and short-video platform Kuaishou team up for immersive travel and bookings experiences. Here's a selection of the week's highlights from China's travel industry.

National Immigration Administration: More than 424 million people entered and exited China in 2023

National Immigration Administration spokesperson Zhang Ning recently stated at a press conference that immigration management agencies nationwide had clocked over 424 million entries and exits throughout the year, a year-on-year increase of 266.5%. Among them, Mainland residents accounted for 206 million, residents of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan accounted for 183 million, and foreigners accounted for 35.47 million, with year-on-year increases of 218.7%, 292.8%, and 693.1%, respectively.

Why interest in US travel has declined for Chinese tourists

In 2024, only 1.3 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the United States, less than 70% of the number in 2019, according to a recent survey by marketing technology company Hawkeye Marketing. The report lists several reasons for this decline in interest, namely limited flight capacity and expensive airfares to the United States, as well as anti-Asian hate crimes that have caught attention on China's social media. Another reason mentioned by the report is that Chinese travelers prefer flexibility and short-term plans, meaning that long-haul vacations to distant destinations are losing popularity.

China to grant unilateral visa-free treatment to Ireland and Switzerland

China recently announced it will grant unilateral visa-free treatment to Ireland and Switzerland. In addition to this, China and Switzerland announced the completion of the joint feasibility study on the upgrade of the China-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement last week. This included a unanimous agreement to support the start of formal negotiations around this upgrade, hold new rounds of China-Switzerland foreign ministers' strategic dialogue, financial working group meetings, energy working group meetings, education policy dialogues, and consultations on UN Security Council affairs within the year. The two countries will mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year. In return for China's visa-free treatment, Switzerland will provide more visa convenience for Chinese citizens and Chinese enterprises investing in Switzerland.

Tongcheng Travel's new theme park adds to Shanghai's family travel appeal

Mafengwo's 2024 Spring Festival trend forecast: family and parent-child groups to account for over 40% of bookings

Mafengwo just released a big data report showing that, in the past week, the popularity of the Spring Festival travel searches has skyrocketed, and family and parent-child groups account for as much as 42% of Spring Festival travelers. Guangzhou's Chimelong Safari Park, with a 154% increase in popularity, has become the leading parent-child tourist attraction during the Spring Festival, propelling Guangzhou into the top three most popular domestic tourism cities.

Tongcheng Travel's first theme park opens at Pudong Airport

As the winter vacation and Spring Festival approach, demand for parent-child travel continues to rise. Recently, Tongcheng Travel, in collaboration with Shanghai Airport Group and Shanghai Pudong Airport, created the Fei Er Meng children's theme park at Pudong Airport. Currently, Fei Er Meng is open to the public, and can be used free of charge by families traveling with children throughout the day.

Fliggy deepens cooperation with Amadeus, listing 600,000+ international hotel rooms

Last week, Alibaba subsidiary Fliggy and Amadeus announced the signing of a cooperation agreement that will see Amadeus Value Hotels, with over 600,000 hotel rooms, becoming officially available on Fliggy Travel and Alibaba's one-stop corporate travel management platform, Alibaba Business Travel. Consumers and corporate clients will have access to a more favorable booking price, a wider selection of rooms, and faster response times for global hotel reservations.

Taiwan authorities expected to restart group tours to Mainland China in March

Wang Guocai, head of the Taiwan authorities' transportation department, recently stated that group tours from Taiwan to Mainland China are expected to resume on March 1st, and air travel will be allowed to resume on an application basis, based on demand. Industry insiders anticipate a gradual return to normalcy in cross-strait tourism.

Hong Kong Tourism Board promotes joint tourism strategy with Mainland cities

Hong Kong has the advantage of being "backed by the motherland, facing the world, and based in the Greater Bay Area," according to Yip Chun-tak, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Yip underlined Hong Kong's new strategy in promoting the development of "one journey, multiple stops", integrating tourism services and products between Hong Kong and mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area to build international tourism market share. Yip also stated that Hong Kong will continue to attract both domestic and foreign tourists to experience Hong Kong through methods such as distributing transport as well as food and beverage coupons.

Hong Kong forms part of the Greater Bay area, along with Guangdong provincial capital Guangzhou and tech capital Shenzhen

Ctrip and short video platform Kuaishou reach a strategic cooperation

Last week, Ctrip and Kuaishou jointly announced the start of a strategic cooperation, which will see Ctrip fully integrated into Kuaishou's ecosystem. Kuaishou will promote Ctrip content, discount coupons, and coordinate collaborations with influencers, among other benefits. Ctrip will then integrate products such as attraction tickets and itineraries into the Kuaishou platform, so that users can book directly via Kuaishou. The two companies will also jointly provide platform dividends for hotels and travel businesses in the future.

Flight News

Hainan Airlines opens its first international route to Vietnam after the pandemic

Last Monday at 00:30, Hainan Airlines' first direct flight from Haikou Meilan International Airport to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City officially took off, arriving at 01:21 local time. This marked the start of Hainan Airlines' two weekly round-trip flights on the Haikou-Ho Chi Minh City route, with flights on Mondays and Thursdays.

China Southern Airlines resumes Zhengzhou-Bangkok international route

To service the upswing in demand for travel during the Spring Festival, China Southern Airlines plans to resume the Zhengzhou-Bangkok international route from February 3rd to February 24th. The flight will operate daily with flight number CZ3079/80, departing from Zhengzhou at 22:30, arriving in Bangkok at 01:45 the next day, departing from Bangkok at 02:45, and returning to Zhengzhou at 07:45 the next day.

Beijing Daxing International Airport opened in September 2019, becoming the capital's second international airport

Hong Kong Express Airways opens new daily direct flights to Beijing Daxing

Hong Kong Express Airways announced the expansion of its flight network, opening a new route with daily direct flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport. The Beijing route will officially start operating on March 12, 2024.

British Airways to double Mandarin-speaking flight attendants on China routes

Seeking expansion in China, British Airways expects that by July this year, the total number of Mandarin-speaking flight attendants on flights to Beijing and Shanghai will reach 100. By then, China is expected to become the second-largest source country for overseas flight attendants of the airline, second only to India.

Chinese flights to Thailand to increase by 600 during Spring Festival

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) recently revealed that during the period from January 26 to March 5, coinciding with the Chinese New Year holiday, an estimated 80 million flights are expected, averaging 2 million flights per day. The anticipated travel volume during this period is expected to grow by 9.8%, compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, setting a new record - if the actual number of tourists aligns with the predictions. The CAAC report mentions a significant increase in Chinese tourists heading to Sanya, Hainan, during this period. Outbound tourism is also expected to increase, with destinations like Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, and neighboring countries being popular among Chinese tourists due to more convenient visa measures. During this holiday period, airlines plan to add on an extra 2,500 international flights, including scheduled and charter flights. Among them, routes to Japan and Thailand will see an increase of 600 flights, followed by an increase of 200 to South Korea and 150 to Singapore.

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