Hot scenic spots, hotels, resorts, airlines, RVs and caterers ... all ride demand rebound
This summer, it is just not temperatures that are expected to soar in China - domestic travel demand is expected to rebound from the monthslong impact of the resurgence of local COVID-19 cases.
With the pandemic increasingly getting under better control, students and families with little children are expected to drive domestic travel demand to potentially record levels. Vacations at summer resorts or water parks are becoming popular, industry experts said.
For instance, over the weekend of June 25 and 26, the tropical island of Hainan province reaped rich dividends from its decision to relax control on travelers from Beijing and Shanghai. The two megacities had seen a resurgence of local COVID cases in recent months, keeping residents within the city boundaries.
So, once Hainan announced they are welcome, hordes of them grabbed the opportunity with both hands and flew to the picturesque island province. Passenger flows to Hainan doubled from the level of the previous weekend, said Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency.
"With the opening up of interprovincial travel and growing demand in summer, the domestic travel market is reaching an upward point of inflection," said Huang Xiaojie, chief marketing officer of Qunar.
On June 25 and 26, the volume of flight tickets booked from other cities to Sanya, Hainan, surged 93 percent over the previous weekend. The number of passengers who flew in from Shanghai grew remarkably as well. The volume of flight tickets booked to Haikou, the provincial capital, jumped 92 percent over the previous weekend, Qunar said.
Besides Hainan's attractions, Chinese travelers lined up for other domestic hot destinations, with Tianjin, Xiamen in Fujian province, Zhengzhou in Henan province, Dalian in Liaoning province and Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region seeing significantly higher demand for flight ticket bookings, Qunar found.
During the same weekend, the volume of hotel bookings nationwide exceeded the same period of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. Some cities that are not provincial capitals saw faster growth in hotel room bookings compared with provincial capitals, indicating strong demand among people for local tours within the province or in regions nearby.
This trend also shows significant room for future growth of more cultural and tourism resources in smaller cities, Qunar said.
Meanwhile, a number of local governments in Yunnan, Hubei and Guizhou provinces have issued consumption vouchers to local residents. This helped stimulate spending among consumers whose enthusiasm for consumption was affected earlier by the pandemic.
"With the launch of various supportive policies that also helped stimulate consumption, the market is expected to return to the recovery track, and the rebound in demand is expected to receive all-around support," said Cheng Chaogong, chief of tourism research at Suzhou-based online travel agency Tongcheng Travel.
"As students have completed their semesters and are in the mood for summer vacations, demand for family trips, especially short-haul and mid-haul travel, is foreseen to drive the steady recovery of the summer tourism market this year," Cheng said.
Student groups, he said, pay more attention to camping, museum visits and sightseeing at natural scenery spots. So, many travel agencies have launched different travel packages that incorporate research and learning for students.
For instance, for high school students, Qunar has launched trips to the Tibet autonomous region that combine the usual elements of organized tours with experiences related to Tibetan incense-making, water quality inspection, Tibetan culture, local language learning and age-old thangka painting.
Going camping on recreational vehicles, or RVs, continues to gain in popularity. The number of RV trips has increased substantially from spring to summer. Huizhou in Guangdong province, Xiamen in Fujian province and Chengdu in Sichuan province have emerged as the most preferred destinations of the RV-and-camping crowd, Qunar said.
Some cities have already witnessed scorching temperatures this summer. For instance, the mercury touched 39 C in late June, prompting residents to seek ways of escaping the heat. For such city-dwelling travelers, Wailingding island, Dongao island and Guishan island in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and Shengsi islands and Qushan island in Zhejiang province proved popular. In the first half of June, sales of ship tickets to and from those islands among travelers in major cities nearby surged more than 300 percent year-on-year, Tongcheng Travel said.
Besides, thanks to steady pandemic control in city clusters in the Pearl River Delta in South China, the travel market in the region has shown a stable performance. Demand for business and leisure travel this summer is expected to be more pronounced than in other regions, the travel agency said.
"With the pandemic situation improving on better control measures, the cultural and travel departments of different cities have launched various events and discounts for the tourism sector this summer," said Wu Ruoshan, a researcher with the Tourism Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"In addition, during the midyear shopping festival known as '618' (held around June 18) that lasts for weeks, many travel agencies introduced promotional products. It is beneficial to stimulate the consumption desire of consumers and enhance the confidence of the travel industry," Wu said.
Senbo Nature Park & Resort, a high-end vacation resort based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said the company's participation in"618" shows travel destinations should not only pay attention to the transaction size but also analyze the speed of travelers who actually go on to stay at the hotels after buying related vouchers online.
"This year, we have seen that a large number of consumers came to stay at the hotels even before the conclusion of the '618' shopping festival, and the voucher redemption process has been faster. From May 26 to June 14, nearly 6,000 room nights have been redeemed, and this has laid a solid foundation for the coming peak season in summer," said Ge Huimin, director of digital marketing at Senbo Nature Park &Resort.
High-end hotel chain Park Hyatt has also witnessed a boom in room bookings, particularly in Hainan, Yunnan provinces, the Yangtze River Delta region and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
"We started to prepare for the '618' promotional event since late April, and we have been satisfied with the results. The positive performance made us feel confident about this summer. We have seen that consumers are making decisions faster and booking hotels for more recent dates," said Yang Xiaoxiao, e-commerce operations manager of Park Hyatt China.
Brisk bookings of luxury hotel rooms have become an important factor that drove the "618" sales growth on Fliggy, the travel arm of Alibaba Group.
Among the top 10 brands with highest transaction volumes, luxury hotel groups grabbed eight spots, including Park Hyatt, Hilton, Inter-Continental and Wanda Hotels &Resorts, Fliggy said.