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Outbound travel is expected to increase by 70% compared to 2020.

The China Tourism Academy has released a report providing an analysis of the tourism economy in 2020 and predictions about trends in 2021.

2020: From bottoming out to steady recovery

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, domestic travel volume in China slumped 52.1% year-on-year in 2020, with only 2.88 billion domestic tourist trips recorded, with 61.1% less revenue, at RMB 2.2 trillion (USD 340.5 billion), according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Inbound trips fell 81.3% year on year to approximately 27.2 million trips, with international tourism revenue plummeted 87.1% to USD 17 billion. Chinese citizens made 20.23 million outbound trips last year, a decline of 86.9% year on year. 

The comprehensive index of the tourism economy for Q1 to Q4 were 68.95, 75.69, 78.47 and 85.32 respectively, indicating a steady rebound every quarter despite year-on-year decreases, according to the report.

The performance of the tourism economy in 2020 showed a deep “U-shaped” curve. Travel activities were in full suspension in the first half of the year, but individual travel and consumption power recovered in the second half, along with investor confidence, driven by the reopening of cross-province group tours.

2021: From full recovery to growth

The prospect for 2021 looks promising. The travel industry will see a full recovery of consumption and investments in the new era of mass tourism and quality trips, and new customer demands and new business models will promote the upgrading of industry and services. 

The China Tourism Academy expects domestic travel to rebound  by 42% to of 4.1 billion domestic tourist trips during the year, while domestic tourism revenue will increase by 48% to RMB 3.3 trillion (about USD 511 billion). 

Given the validation and global distribution of Covid vaccines, international travel is expected to restart in the second half of 2021 and recover to about 30% of the pre-pandemic level. Inbound trips will increase by more than 50% year on year, international tourism revenue will go up by over 65% and outbound travel by Chinese tourists will increase 70% compared to 2020.

Looking ahead, lower-tier cities will be emerging source markets with more people  traveling. Leisure travel driven by individual and independent tourists will out-perform sight-seeing group travel organized by tour operators. Innovative technologies will speed up the development of smart tourism, thus improving tourists’ satisfaction level and sense of fulfillment. 

Outbound travel is expected to restart on a large scale in the second half of 2021. But domestic travel will continue to be preferred by Chinese tourists. Small curated tours will drive consumption growth.

Encouraged by the distribution of vaccines and significant discounts offered by travel companies, more than 85% of consumers will make travel plans this year, adding momentum to the recovery of the travel industry. 

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