Strong demand from Chinese travellers despite high air fares

Chinese travellers

There has been strong demand from Chinese travellers since China wound back its Covid restrictions with demand outstripping supply leading to higher air fares.

New data from travel tech company Sabre shows that despite the higher than average air fares, Chinese travellers have long-term travel confidence.

Air fares more than doubled in January when compared to pre-pandemic prices, sliding slightly in February.

In general, outbound travel has rebounded faster than inbound travel to the region, with Sabre data showing outbound bookings making up 43.5% of 2023 overall travel through February 9, compared to 37% for the same period in 2019.

Japan, Thailand and Korea are the top three destinations for Chinese outbound travel in 2023, with Korea rising two places to the 3rd spot compared to the same time in 2019.

Bookings for the UK, Thailand and Philippines have bounced back the fastest compared to the same period in 2019. Indonesia, a top outbound destination in 2019, lost its spot in the top 10 to the Philippines, while Australia slid to 9th place.

Travelers appear to be planning further ahead now, when compared to 2019 where there were more last-minute bookings.

Airline capacity for international routes to and from China (including Hong Kong and Macau) has recovered to only around 27%, compared to Q1 2019, with capacities expected to increase from April onwards.

Currently, most of the scheduled capacity is coming from Greater China airlines, along with carriers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Chinese airlines hold more than two thirds (65%) of total international route capacity, versus 60% in 2019. Global airlines have yet to add significant capacity for China. Prices are expected to remain higher until supply has been fully restored on the capacity front.

“The speed with which Chinese tourism started to rebound as soon as the announcements were made that restrictions were to be lifted demonstrates how high travel demand is for both inbound and outbound trips,” said Darren Rickey, senior vice president, airline global sales at Sabre.

“We’re now excited to see what the rest of the year holds for Chinese travel.”