China has taken a significant step towards revitalizing global tourism by lifting pandemic-related limitations on group travel to more than 70 countries, including significant markets such as the United States, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.
The full list of 138 countries approved for group travel. Screenshot by That's
The move, announced by China's culture and tourism ministry on Thursday, August 10, has been hailed as a potential boon for the tourism sectors of these nations.
The lifting of restrictions is effective immediately and comes as a welcome relief to many countries that heavily rely on tourism, particularly from Chinese visitors.
Prior to the pandemic, mainland Chinese tourists held the record for spending the most money abroad, contributing a staggering $255 billion in 2019.
Notably, group tours were estimated to make up around 60% of this expenditure.
The absence of Chinese tourists since the pandemic outbreak has dealt a severe blow to many tourism-dependent businesses worldwide, causing financial turmoil and disruptions.
This shift in China's policy to allow group travel once again could herald a revival for these ailing sectors.
This isn't the first time China has revised its list of approved countries for group travel.
The initial batch of approvals in January encompassed 20 countries, including Thailand, Russia, Cuba, and Argentina.
The second batch, announced in March, extended to 40 countries, featuring destinations like Nepal, France, Portugal, and Brazil.
This third batch, announced on August 10, added more than 70 countries to the list, with 138 countries and regions now in total.
While no official explanation has been given to the order, it has been noted that countries facing delays in obtaining approval tend to have more complex political and/or trade relationships with China.
News of China's decision triggered a wave of positive reactions across the Asian market, particularly in the tour agency, hotel, and airline sectors.
South Korean airline and travel stocks experienced a notable surge, with tour agencies, airlines, and hotel stocks all witnessing remarkable gains.
For instance, Lotte Tour Development, a prominent travel agency, saw its shares spike by over 25%, while luxury hotel operator Hotel Shilla enjoyed a 17% surge.
South Korean airlines also witnessed considerable gains, with Asiana Airlines climbing 7% and Korea Airlines advancing by 3.1%, as reported by Bloomberg.
Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways stock market performance in the last five days. Data by Google Finance. Screenshots by That's
Japanese tourism stocks also joined the upward trajectory, as Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways saw increases of 1.92% and 1.25%, respectively.
Meanwhile, shares of Japanese travel agency H.I.S rose 3.4%, while its counterpart Airtrip enjoyed a 2.9% boost.
Despite the excitement generated by this development, the outbound travel services market is witnessing a surge in prices.
Leading travel platforms like Ctrip and Tongcheng-Elong have reported instantaneous search growth of over 20 times for outbound travel products.
Particularly, travel packages to countries like Japan and Australia have experienced a significant surge in demand, with trips planned for September to these destinations.
Flight prices from major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Chongqing, and Guangzhou to Japan have surged overnight by 20%.
Similarly, ticket prices for direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, and other cities to South Korea have seen a 10% increase.
These price hikes are expected to cover the upcoming October 'Golden Week' holiday and Christmas season.
If you have travel plans for the latter half of 2023, but haven't secured flight tickets or hotel reservations yet, you might find yourself in a race against time alongside fellow Chinese travelers!
As China's travel landscape continues to shift, stay tuned to That’s for ongoing coverage of changes in the domestic and international travel markets. Keep up with the latest news by following our WeChat Official Account, ThatsGBA.
[Cover image by Billy Jiang/That's]