Alongside the gradual resurgence of confidence among Chinese travelers, travel bookings are also making a comeback. Perhaps it’s not yet time to write off the Chinese traveler.
With the anticipation of the return of Chinese tourists to the global travel scene, an unexpected destination has seen an surge in popularity: Iceland.
That’s according to the September 2023 Chinese Traveler Sentiment Report by Dragon Trail, which attributed the gain to viral photos and videos showcasing the country’s active volcanoes on various Chinese social media platforms.
Iceland had never made it to the top 10 outbound destinations for Chinese travelers – now Chinese travelers represent the fourth largest group in Iceland.
In March, Iceland was included in a list of 40 countries for which China lifted Covid-era restrictions on group tours. China didn’t lift the restriction for the United States until August.
South Korea a Top Pick for Chinese Travelers
The Dragon Trail report highlighted a significant surge in popularity for travel to South Korea, which moved from fifth place to first: More than 10% of respondents in August 2023 favored it versus just 4% in April.
While almost 55% of respondents said they planned to travel within Asia, Europe emerged as the top choice for long-haul travel, with over 34% showing a strong inclination towards exploring the continent.
The report indicated that the fear of contracting a Covid infection overseas had substantially declined since January 2023. At the beginning of the year, over half of the respondents had cited this fear as a significant deterrent to international travel. Now it is one of the least important reasons.
Chinese social media platforms have emerged as the primary source of destination information for these travelers. Approximately 72% of respondents indicated that they turned to Chinese social media channels like WeChat, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu for insights on outbound travel destinations.
When it comes to travel preferences and motivations, the foremost driving force among Chinese tourists remains pent-up demand following the restrictions during the pandemic. Convenient visa application processes and cost-effective travel options are also important.
Pricing, safety, and convenience remain the top three factors when considering travel products.
United States No Longer Seen as ‘Unsafe’
The United States has seen a remarkable transformation in its perception among Chinese travelers. Currently, only 39% of Chinese tourists consider it “unsafe,” marking a substantial decrease from the concerning 87% figure recorded in September 2021.
This changing landscape is especially significant as China prepares to celebrate two of its most prominent holidays — the mid-autumn festival and National Day on October 1. These holidays traditionally see a surge in travel activity, and the evolving perception of safety in international destinations can influence travel decisions during this period.
As of September 10, the international flight capacity in China has reached 49% of the volume recorded in 2019. Moreover, starting from August 10 onwards, Chinese travel agents have been authorized to offer outbound group tours and packages to an additional 40 countries, further facilitating international travel opportunities for Chinese tourists.