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Airbnb bullish on China's summer travel

Buoyed by rising demand from young consumers, outbound tourism to surge

By FAN FEIFEI | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-08 10:02
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This file photo taken on Nov 22, 2019 shows an illustration of the logo of the online accommodation platform Airbnb displayed on a tablet in Paris. [Photo/Agencies]

China's outbound tourism sector is expected to witness robust growth during this summer, fueled by the recovery of international flights, with Asia and Europe gaining popularity among Chinese leisure travelers, according to US-based lodging and short-term vacation rental provider Airbnb.

Data from Airbnb showed that the number of Chinese users searching for outbound stays with check-in dates between July 1 and July 15 registered a nearly twofold increase year-on-year.

The most popular overseas destinations for Chinese travelers for the fast-approaching summer season are Japan, France, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Italy and Switzerland.

Search volumes for France with check-in dates between July 20 and Aug 13 surged nearly eightfold year-on-year, while searches for Paris skyrocketed eleven-fold from a year earlier due in large part to the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, which makes this city the most popular European urban destination for Chinese tourists this summer, Airbnb said.

Most of the room searches originated from Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Chengdu in Sichuan province and Guangzhou in Guangdong province, it added.

Moreover, searches for group tours consisting of three people and above between July and August have grown rapidly, accounting for about 80 percent of total outbound travel, said Airbnb.

Kong Zhiqiu, head of Airbnb China, said the country's outbound tourism market has witnessed a steady recovery since the beginning of the year, adding that he is bullish on growth prospects for the sector, which has been an important growth engine in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is noteworthy that Generation Z travelers — those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s — prioritize cost-effective outbound travel experiences, and prefer diversified and personalized tours.

"They may choose some overseas destinations just to see a concert or a show," Kong said.

Kong added that the company will step up its localization push to promote the innovation of products so as to cater to the needs of Chinese tourists, and introduce localized innovative products and features to more overseas markets, such as Japan and South Korea, Kong added.

Airbnb also expects China's outbound travel numbers to be above 2019 levels by the end of the year. It has recently announced "icons" — a new category of extraordinary experiences hosted by the greatest names in music, film, television, arts and sports.

China saw outbound passenger trips exceed 87 million last year, and this is projected to reach 130 million in 2024, according to a report published by the China Tourism Academy.

Long-distance tours have been increasingly preferred by Chinese travelers, and the resumption of China's outbound tourism will bolster the global tourism industry and the economic recovery of countries that depend heavily on tourism, industry experts said.

Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, said that along with the addition of international flights and more convenient exit and entry policies, China's outbound tourism is poised to see a steady recovery this year, which will inject strong impetus into the prosperity of the country's tourism sector.

The country's outbound travel saw a strong rebound during the just-concluded May Day holiday, which lasted from May 1 to Sunday, mainly driven by expanded visa exemption policies and increased international flight capacity.

With the accelerated recovery of outbound tourism, tourists are showing an increasing demand for short-term home rentals and homestay services, which are now wide-ranging to satisfy the needs of various types of tourists, said Lai Zhen, an analyst at market research company iResearch.

"Typically, travelers hire such services for get-togethers, reunions, team building activities and for improving parent-child bonding and communication," Lai said, adding that demand for leisure tourism is on the rise as more and more people are inclined to get close to nature and stay away from the hustle and bustle of cities.

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