Outbound travel from China surges fourfold


Chinese tourists are returning to the global tourism stage, with a 392 per cent surge in outbound travel booked from mainland China for 2024, compared to the previous year according to Sabre’s booking insights.

Pre-pandemic, travellers from China made 155 million international trips, collectively spending US$245 billion.

However, with China slower to ease travel restrictions in comparison to other countries, even after the re-opening of borders, it hasn’t been a quick comeback.

The major rebound of outbound Chinese travel that some expected in 2023 didn’t occur. That picture is rapidly changing in 2024, with a huge appetite among Chinese travellers for global travel, according to Sabre’s analysis of industry data.

While outbound travel has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, bookings for travel to key parts of the world during typical peak travel dates are seeing particularly strong demand.

Bookings made at the end of January before the 2024 Chinese New Year break for travel from mainland China to countries in the Asia Pacific region were at 106 per cent of 2019 levels.

Australia is among the fastest growing routes globally for Chinese travellers in 2024 alongside Macao, Japan, Russia and Bangladesh.

The top 10 most popular destinations for outbound Chinese travellers are similar in 2024 compared to 2023. However, Australia and Malaysia have moved into the top 10, with Australia moving up seven places, and Malaysia moving from 18th to ninth, while Canada and Spain dropped out. Korea and Japan rose in the rankings to take first and second place respectively, pushing down the US and Thailand.

In Asia Pacific, the countries with the biggest increase are Australia and Japan, with Australia moving from 8th to 6th place in the region, and Japan from 5th to 2nd.

Airlines are also increasing capacity to meet demand. International capacity originating from China increased by 280 per cent year over year in the first quarter of the year, with the largest increases coming from key hubs like Beijing (+400%), Shenzhen (+560%) and Chengdu (+3200%).

As capacity is increasing and supply and demand are achieving greater equilibrium, fares for routes from mainland China are priced lower across the board when compared to 2023, making travel more affordable for Chinese travellers.

For travel in this year’s first quarter the difference was up to -73 per cent and -71 per cent on key routes, with the most significant decreases in fare cost being from Shanghai to Seoul, and Shanghai to Tokyo.