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Travel data: China visa bookings for France Olympics full until August

With the Paris Olympics approaching, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to France and applying for visas has surged. In some cities, visa appointments for the Paris Olympics period are almost fully booked.

Looking at data from the top-selling French visa agents on Taobao, such as Shanghai Youth Travel Service and Shanghai Dongyi International Travel Service's stores, demand for French Schengen visas in Hangzhou is exceptionally high. Regular visa processing queues are now scheduled until late July, with visa issuance around August 10. To attend the Paris Summer Olympics opening ceremony on July 26, applicants can submit their visa applications in nearby cities like Shanghai or Nanjing, or purchase expedited packages, which range from ¥1,888 – 3,398 ($266 – 478).

In addition to France, the number of tourists traveling to Serbia and Hungary has also significantly increased. According to data, Chinese tourist orders for Europe have doubled year-on-year. As of now, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to France in the first half of the year has increased by 147% year-on-year, to Serbia by 105%, and to Hungary by 48%. Data from Fliggy shows that since the beginning of the year, the number of air tickets booked from China to France, Serbia and Hungary has increased by 84%, 117%, and 41% respectively, compared to last year.

"Experience Abu Dhabi" mini program officially launched

On May 10th, it was announced that Tencent Cloud and the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism launched the "Experience Abu Dhabi" mini program. This program integrates local tourism information resources to provide tourists with a one-stop intelligent travel service, enhancing their travel experience.

The mini program combines diverse information on dining, accommodation, transportation, tourism, shopping, and entertainment, offering online features such as ticket booking, itinerary planning, attraction status, and voice guides. It covers the entire travel process, providing smart tourism services before, during, and after the trip. Tourists can easily access detailed attraction information, create personalized itineraries, book professional guides, and purchase tickets through the mini program, enjoying a smart and personalized travel experience.

CITS Smart Tourism Flagship Store opens

Yet another high-end brick and mortar travel agency location opens. On May 15th, the China International Travel Service (CITS) Smart Tourism Flagship Store opened in Beijing at the CITS Building. Featuring high-tech digital equipment and interactive technologies such as 5G plus augmented reality, AI digital humans, VR cave spaces, and naked-eye 3D, the store is designed to create a new cultural and tourism consumption experience for customers.

Chinese luxury domestic tours selling for up to $7,900

Currently, major travel agencies in Hangzhou are offering a luxurious 10-day "Northern Frontier" tour in the far northern region Mohe, which borders on the Russian Far East. Tourists can stay in a moving five-star hotel that accommodates only 60 tourists, visiting the northern cities of Mohe, Manzhouli, Hailar, Harbin, and Yichun over ten days. According to a travel agency representative, this was originally a niche high-end route priced around ¥57,000 ($7,900) that suddenly become popular due to the recent hype around seeing the aurora.

New Oriental and Fliggy sign study tour agreement

On May 13th, New Oriental signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Fliggy, the Zhejiang Provincial Museum Society Study Tour Committee, and Hangzhou Fuchun Mountain Residence Group. This marks the first public announcement of New Oriental collaborating with an OTA for study tours, as educational travel sees significant growth in China.

Hainan Airlines resumes Chongqing-Seattle route

Hainan Airlines has resumed the Chongqing-Seattle international passenger route as of May 16th. This is the third direct flight route between China and the United States that Hainan Airlines has resumed, following the Beijing-Boston and Beijing-Seattle routes.

Hangzhou resumes direct flight to Ho Chi Minh City

Starting June 12th, Hangzhou will resume direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with a flight duration of about four hours. Previously, travelers from Hangzhou to Ho Chi Minh City needed to fly directly from Shanghai or transfer. The Hangzhou-Ho Chi Minh flight will operate four times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

Guilin airport adds new airline for Guilin-Kuala Lumpur route

On June 4, Guilin Airport will add Malindo Air to operate the Guilin-Kuala Lumpur route. Malindo Air's flights on this route will operate twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Qantas to suspend Shanghai route

Qantas announced recently that it will suspend flights to Shanghai starting July 28th, due to low demand. Nine months ago, the Australian flagship airline resumed flights from Sydney, hoping for a post-pandemic tourism rebound. Qantas CEO Cam Wallace stated, "Since the COVID-19 pandemic, travel demand between Australia and China has not recovered as expected. In some months, our flights to and from Shanghai have been only half full."

Fliggy and MSC Cruises integrate global membership systems

On May 16, Fliggy and MSC Cruises announced the integration of their global membership systems, allowing Fliggy members to directly obtain a MSC Voyagers Club membership corresponding to their Fliggy membership level. Consumers booking certain products and services in the Fliggy "MSC Cruises Flagship Store" can enjoy MSC Voyagers Club member benefits and points.

The Philippines to tighten visa requirements for Chinese Tourists

According to a report from Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao website on May 13, the Philippine Immigration Bureau announced on May 12 that due to “Chinese citizens engaging in illegal activities within the Philippines,” tightening visa requirements for Chinese tourists will help the Philippines protect national security. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs announced stricter visa regulations for Chinese citizens. This has raised concerns among many that it may “hinder tourism and harm businesses.”

Thailand Tourism Board offers Michelin bus ride to Chinese tourists

The Deputy Director of the Thailand National Tourism Board, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, has recently appeared in a live broadcast once again, inviting 24 Chinese tourists to enjoy a Michelin bus sunset dinner in Bangkok. This special bus allows tourists to enjoy Michelin restaurant cuisine while taking in a 360-degree view of the city.

Number of Chinese tourists visiting the US recovers to less than 40%

According to the latest data released by the US' National Travel and Tourism Office, the total number of international tourists to the US reached 66.5 million in 2023, a 31% increase from 2022, reaching 84% of the 2019 level. International tourism spending totaled $213.1 billion, up 29%. However, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the US has recovered slowly, reaching less than 40% of the peak in 2017.

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