Travel News | What are the trends for inbound and outbound tourism during the “May Day” holiday? The tourism economy returns to stable growth in the first quarter.

May 22, 2024
By Carrie Li

“May Day” Holiday Travel Set to Peak with High Demand for International Trips

During the “May Day” holiday, travel to and from entering and leaving the country is heating up and is expected to reach its second peak after the Spring Festival in China. A representative from Mafengwo mentioned that there’s been a noticeable increase in inquiries and bookings for international trips around “May Day”. Many travellers prefer destinations where no visa is needed. Popular choices include Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the USA, Indonesia, Australia, France, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

On the Ctrip platform, bookings for local guides in foreign countries have jumped by 90%. Top destinations for these guides include Bangkok, Phuket, Dubai, Osaka, and Kuala Lumpur, where many guides are already fully booked in May.

Additionally, large cruise ships, such as those from the Mediterranean and Royal Caribbean lines, will be docking at Chinese ports. Cruises departing from Shanghai and Xiamen are nearly sold out, indicating a fast recovery for the cruise industry during this holiday period.

International hotel bookings on the Qunar platform currently cover nearly a thousand cities. In traditional popular destinations like Japan, France, the UK, and Switzerland, tourists are still looking for more than just a short tour; they are diving deep into small towns for exploration. French Burgundy, known for its fine wines, the ethereally beautiful Otaru in Japan as featured in the film “Love Letter,” and Zermatt in Switzerland, where skiing is possible year-round, have all become favoured destinations for Chinese travellers.

During the “May Day” holiday, inbound travel bookings surged 130% compared to last year. The central countries receiving visitors include Japan, the USA, South Korea, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, the UK, Australia, Russia, and France. Popular destinations for international visitors in China include Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xi’an, and Kunming. [Source: People’s Daily]

As the “May Day” short holiday countdown begins, Ctrip’s local guide service released the “2024 May Day Travel Trend Insights” on April 29, after monitoring and analyzing holiday travel trends in advance. The report reveals that travelling with a hired car and booking personal guides for in-depth tours have emerged as popular new ways to travel, especially favoured by tourists seeking relaxed and immersive experiences. During the “May Day” short holiday, bookings for Ctrip’s local guides increased nearly 20% compared to 2023 and 369% compared to 2019. Key trends for this year’s holiday include “Chill Family Trips,” “Wilderness Car Tours,” and “Deep Cultural Tours.” [Source: Ctrip]

Railway Transport for the May Day Holiday
On April 29, railway transportation for the May Day short holiday was fully launched. From April 29 to May 6, over eight days, it is estimated that the national railway will serve 144 million passengers, with an average of 18 million passengers per day; May 1 is expected to be the peak day for passenger traffic. [Source: Global News]

Flight Manager predicts that the average daily flight volume during the 2024 May Day holiday will exceed 14,900 flights, an increase of 4.6% compared to 2019 and 3.3% compared to the May Day holiday in 2023. The average daily number of air travellers is expected to be about 2.088 million, a 15.6% increase from 2019 and an 11.0% increase from 2023.

For the May Day holiday, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand are the top three countries/regions for planned international flights. All of these have seen substantial growth compared to 2023. Some countries have more significant increases due to fewer flights in 2023.

During May Day, the top 20 international routes have grown compared to 2023, with nine routes planning increases of over 100%. Notable increases include Kunming to Bangkok (307.7%), Shanghai to Bangkok (166.7%), and Qingdao to Seoul (158.1%). Compared to 2023, Shanghai to Nagoya is a new route, and flights from Shanghai to Macau and Taipei in China have seen smaller increases.

FlightAI forecasts that this year’s May Day search index is slightly higher than last year, indicating that traveller enthusiasm remains high. The peak of travel searches is still expected to be on the first day of the holiday, up 13% from the first day of last year’s holiday. [Source: Aviation Retail News]

On April 26, Alipay announced new spending trends for outbound travel: sustainable travel has become the new mode of international tourism. In addition to seeking more destination discounts, better exchange rates, and authentic travel guides, tourists are also looking to practice sustainable, low-carbon behaviours while travelling abroad. This includes using mobile payments more frequently and taking public transportation, allowing them to enjoy authentic experiences while protecting our planet, which thrives on harmony between humans and nature.

Among the most popular destinations for outbound travel, using Alipay to pay for local public transportation has become the preferred method for mainland tourists exploring Hong Kong and Macau via CityWalk. Especially by this “May Day,” mainland tourists can use the transport QR code to take public buses in Macau, allowing for seamless travel. [Source: China Economic Net]

China Tourism Research Institute Releases First Half-Year Forecast Report,Tourism Economy Returns to Stable Growth Trend

The China Tourism Research Institute’s “2024 First Quarter Economic Operation Analysis and First Half-Year Forecast Report” indicates that in the first quarter of this year, the national tourism economy’s comprehensive index was 115.11, within a prosperous range.

 This marks the third consecutive quarter of quarter-over-quarter growth, approaching the levels seen in the same period of 2019. In the first quarter, domestic tourists and total tourist spending grew by about 20%. At the same time, the inbound and outbound tourism market noticed growth exceeding 100%, with an average of about 20 million inbound and outbound travellers per month. For the first half of the year, the tourism economy is gradually returning to a long-term stable growth trend. Based on indicators such as the willingness of residents to travel, tourist booking indices, and confidence in business growth, as well as comprehensive surveys of tourist satisfaction and interviews with market commodities, it is expected that the number of domestic tourist visits and tourism revenue in the first half of the year will comprehensively approach the levels of the same period in 2019, and that inbound and outbound tourism will continue to multiply, potentially recovering to about 80% of the 2019 levels. [Source: People’s Daily]

Over 10 Million Visitors to Hong Kong in the First Quarter of 2024
Estimate of 5.9 Million Visitors During the May Day Golden Week

On April 16, the Hong Kong Tourism Board announced that the number of visitors to Hong Kong in the first quarter of 2024 reached 11.23 million, a 1.5-fold increase year-over-year. This represents a 5% increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2023. The Tourism Board stated that these figures reflect a steady, gradual increase in visitor numbers.

Data shows that the number of visitors in early March was about 3.4 million, nearly a 40% increase from last year. Of these, over 2.46 million were from mainland China, a 25.4% year-on-year increase. Non-mainland visitors exceeded 930,000, a 92.1% increase from the previous year. [Source: Bauhinia Magazine]

The Hong Kong Tourism Board also announced that starting in May, it will regularly organise sea fireworks or drone shows to coincide with festivals or significant events. The first sea fireworks show will take place on the evening of May 1st in Victoria Harbour, kicking off the May Day Golden Week. The first drone show will light up the night sky over Victoria Harbour on May 11th, themed around traditional festivals to enhance the festive atmosphere and attract more visitors to Hong Kong. [Source: Direct News]

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Predicts Substantial Mainland Visitor Numbers for May Day Golden Week

On April 23, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee stated that at least 800,000 mainland visitors are expected to come to Hong Kong during the May Day Golden Week. It is also anticipated that there will be about 5.9 million activities across various border ports, with the Luohu Port being the busiest. May 1st is expected to be the peak day for cross-border movements, reaching up to 1 million people, including 800,000 movements from mainland visitors. The Hong Kong Tourism Board forecasts that about 680 mainland tour groups, comprising approximately 26,000 visitors, will travel to Hong Kong during the May Day period. [Source: Hong Kong Home Global Harmony]

Ctrip: First Quarter Inbound Tourism Orders Up More Than Threefold

According to data from the National Immigration Administration, 13.074 million foreign nationals entered and exited China in the first quarter, a 305.2% increase year over year. Tourism and sightseeing were the most common reasons for foreigners coming to China, accounting for more than 30%, followed by business, visiting relatives and friends, etc. Chongqing is one of the top ten destination cities for inbound tourism.

Ctrip’s data also shows that in the first quarter of this year, domestic inbound tourism orders increased more than threefold compared to last year. As inbound tourism quickly recovers, many foreign tourists are experiencing new changes in China’s tourism: entry is more convenient, and services such as payments, ticket booking, and car usage are also more accessible. [Source: Global Information]

Air China to Open and Resume Four International Routes

On April 23, the “Overlooking a More Beautiful World” press conference for Air China’s new and resuming international routes for 2024 was held in Beijing. Starting April 28, Air China will gradually open new routes from Beijing to Riyadh and Dhaka and resume flights from Beijing to Madrid-São Paulo and Beijing to Madrid-Havana. With these additions, Air China’s route network will again span all six continents. [Source: Travel Agency Information Network]

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