China’s Weak Economy Won’t Stop ‘100 Million’ Tourists

Skift Take

Let’s hope a weak economy doesn’t stop 100 million Chinese tourists from turning out globally this year.

China’s economy is shaky, but that doesn’t mean its millions of citizens are going to stop traveling abroad any time soon. That’s what executives said at a panel at the recent ITB Berlin travel trade show.

 “There are about 100 million Chinese people who have enough money to visit Berlin or travel long distances,” said Professor Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute.

“These 100 million people may not get richer so quickly anymore, but they still have enough money for a $5,000 or $6,000 trip to Europe, Africa or wherever,” said Arlt.

China’s economy has been slowing after years of rapid growth. Some travel industry executives have questioned whether Chinese tourism will ever fully recover. 

“China’s economy is changing,” San Francisco Travel CEO and President Scott Beck told Skift in an interview. “That market may never come back to the way it was pre-pandemic.” 

Qatar Sees Chinese Tourists Come Back

Qatar has seen an surge in Chinese tourists since the Chinese government lifted its group travel ban on the destination in August.

“We’re on a nice trajectory curve,” said Philip Dickinson, who leads global travel trade market Development and MICE for Visit Qatar.

China was one of Qatar’s fastest-growing markets before the pandemic, having grown 118% between 2014 and 2019, said Dickinson.

Until August, the Chinese government had banned its travel agencies from selling group travel to Qatar, the U.S., the UK, Japan and multiple other countries. Canada is still on China’s banned list.

Chinese Tourists Need Flights to Europe and North America

A persistent roadblock for Chinese tourism to the West has been flight availability. Germany, the U.S., Netherlands, the UK and other Western destinations have yet to see the number of flights to China restored to the pre-pandemic level.

By the end of March, Germany and China will “finally” have bilateral talks again about traffic rights, said Ralf Ostendor, director of market management for Visit Berlin.

“We really need more direct flights and connectivity and I hope that that will really come later this year or later 2025,” he said during the ITB Berlin session.

The lack of flights and cost have been a deterrent to Chinese tourists to the West. At some points last year, economy fares for flights from China to the U.S. exceeded $3,500. 

Geopolitics between the West and China and the fact that U.S. and most European carriers can’t fly over Russian airspace have been major barriers to fully restoring air connectivity.

Skift’s Coverage of ITB Berlin 2024

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