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Outbound travel gives hope to global economic recovery

XINHUA | Updated: 2023-02-13 08:53
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Chinese visitors experience tourism activities under the guidance of staff in a jungle park ahead of Chinese New Year in Phuket, Thailand, on Jan 20. [PHOTO by JORGE SILVA/REUTERS]

Nation's overseas exits, entries surge amid optimized COVID-19 measures

BEIJING — Chinese people's rekindled passion for traveling abroad during the Spring Festival holiday has displayed the growing vitality of the Chinese economy and added optimism for the world to pull out from the economic downturn.

During the weeklong holiday that ended on Jan 27, China's first long holiday since cross-border travel reopened, outbound travel orders recorded a three-year peak, increasing by 640 percent year-on-year, data from online travel agency Group showed.

Overseas hotel and cross-border flight bookings surged by more than four times over the same period.

Another report from the National Immigration Administration showed rising inbound and outbound traffic. Of the 2.88 million people entering or leaving the country, 1.44 million went overseas, up 117.8 percent from the same holiday period last year.

The growing travel enthusiasm was fueled by the country's downgraded COVID-19 response measures in early January after three years of stringent prevention and control policies.

"This Spring Festival, the world has seen a vibrant and beaming China," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

"This tourism and consumption boom speaks to the Chinese passion for life and confidence in China's development, and gives the world a sense of the strong momentum in China's economic recovery and how much a strong Chinese economy means to the world," Mao said.

Outbound tourism winners

From the Jungfrau Ski Region in Switzerland to Indonesia's Bali, countries had been holding ceremonies and performances to receive Chinese tourists. The Thai deputy prime minister also welcomed Chinese tourists at the airport.

Among the destinations, Southeast Asia, which is famous for its abundant tourism resources and hospitality, became a big winner during Spring Festival.

According to, Southeast Asian destinations, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Manila in the Philippines and Bali, became the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists to travel abroad during Spring Festival.

Of the outbound air ticket orders, those for Bali increased 30-fold year-on-year and those for Singapore by more than eight-fold. Many other destinations, including Manila and Phuket, also saw increases of about three- to five-fold.

"The popularity of Spring Festival travel is obvious to all," said Shen Jiani, a senior researcher with the Ctrip Research Institute. "Taking this as a starting point, we believe that the confidence and potential of China's tourism consumption will be released rapidly and the market will embrace a considerable recovery this year."

Shen believes that with the gradual increase of international flights and the increasing convenience of travel at home and abroad, tourism will see a significant market boom in the May Day holiday this year.

Higher growth expectations

The rosy forecast is not confined to the tourism industry.

After international investment banks and financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Barclays and Natixis, upwardly revised their 2023 forecasts for China, the International Monetary Fund also lifted its growth forecast of China's economic growth rate this year.

"Growth in China is projected to rise to 5.2 percent in 2023, reflecting improving mobility," the IMF said in the newly released update to its World Economic Outlook report. The newly released number was 0.8 percentage point higher than the October forecast.

It said the rapid spread of COVID-19 in China dampened growth in 2022, but the recent reopening has paved the way for a faster-than-expected recovery. "Growth is expected to pick up in China with full reopening in 2023."

Investment bank UBS said in a recent report that as the engine of global growth, China's economic growth benefits Chinese enterprises and people, as well as many developing and developed countries.

In 2023, China "can play a vital role in stimulating" global growth, said Hamid Rashid, chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch, Economic Analysis and Policy Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In addition to outbound tourism, China's domestic consumption had experienced a massive increase. During the seven-day holiday, more than 300 million domestic tours were made in China. The box office of Spring Festival movies exceeded 6.7 billion yuan ($985 million), with a total of 129 million tickets sold.

"The hot holiday consumption is back again, which to some degree indicates that consumer confidence is picking up and has made a good start for boosting the economy throughout the year," said Wang Yun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research.

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