China's outbound travel surges ahead of 'Golden Week' holidays

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China’s homegrown C919 passenger jet departs Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport for Beijing Capital International Airport during its maiden commercial flight on May 28, 2023 in Shanghai, China.

VCG | Getty Images

Outbound travel from China is surging ahead of the first “Golden Week” holiday period since the country has allowed international travel to resume and even as China’s economic growth has slowed.

Bookings for popular foreign destinations such as Singapore, Australia and Thailand have increased by 20 times compared with the same holiday period last year, travel provider Trip.com said in a press release Monday. Golden Week begins on Oct. 1, this year. It is a weeklong celebration that includes China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day, and other holidays. The travel provider reported that data shows an increase of bookings in less popular destinations such as Sri Lanka or Uzbekistan as well as private group tours. Travelers are looking for authentic experiences and not just popular destinations. The surge in bookings came after China lifted Covid-19 restrictions in December, and lifted a ban on groups tours to more than 70 nations in August. The United Kingdom and South Korea — two countries that Trip.com said are seeing more travel from China — were included on the list.

Although more than six months have passed since China fully reopened its borders, experts have not observed a widely expected boom in travel out of the country. Instead, many residents chose to stay home because they preferred to or because they were confronted with difficult or costly options for traveling internationally.

At the same time, domestic travel has recovered. Trip.com reported that bookings within China were up four times more than they were during Golden Week last year, as residents chose to travel for longer periods between provinces. Trip.com reported that autumnal tours in Northwest China and the comfortable climate of South China have made these destinations especially popular. Even with pandemic-related restrictions, China logged 637 millions domestic travelers in 2020. Holidays are known to boost shopping and tourism for residents.