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Chinese outbound travel rebounds strongly in Q2 2024

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Chinese outbound travel surged in Q2 2024, with over 1.5 million trips during Golden Week and a broadening demographic of travelers.

SINGAPORE – Chinese citizens are leading the charge in a continued rebound of international travel, exemplified in the second quarter by more than 1.5 million Chinese travellers leaving on outbound trips during the Golden Week holiday— over China’s May Day holiday alone, outbound travel reached 87% of 2019’s numbers. According to China Trading Desk’s most recent Travel Sentiment Survey, the second quarter of 2024 saw the continued recovery of the outbound travel market, with even more travel occurring in April through June than earlier in the year. What’s more, Q2 reflected a broadening market base of Chinese travellers, with stronger involvement from Gen Z women and older demographics.

China Trading Desk, which polls 15,000 Chinese quarterly about their overseas travel plans, found that in the second quarter of this year, 59% of outbound travellers were female, while 63% were between the ages of 18 and 29. While 58% of these travellers have never travelled overseas, 61% plan to travel abroad one to two times in the next 12 months. As in Q1, nearly 70% of travellers are booking tickets less than a month in advance—but Q2 also saw an increase in travellers who prefer planning their trips three to six months ahead, suggesting a dual trend of spontaneity and detailed planning. The second quarter also saw an increase in Chinese travellers over age 35, with more than 20% in this older demographic.

While our Q1 survey noted that young educated women were leading the charge in China’s outbound travel business, Q2 saw that older travellers are increasingly travelling overseas as well, in a visible expansion of China’s outbound travel business,” said China Trading Desk founder and CEO Subramania Bhatt. “Some travellers are still booking without excessive planning, while others are taking their time to plan ahead, with both groups clearly eager to get out there.”

The top destinations for Chinese travellers still included traditional favourites like Singapore (15.6%), Thailand (13.8%), Malaysia (12%), Japan (11.7%), and South Korea (11.5%). But Q2 saw a noticeable rise in interest toward less common destinations like Europe (10.1%) and Australia (8.2%).

This shift towards a mix of familiar and new destinations highlights a collective yearning to blend comfort with novelty in travel experiences,” Bhatt explained. “There’s an expanding horizon for Chinese travellers seeking diverse cultural and experiential journeys.”

A Shift in Traveler Interest

Another emerging trend in Q2 is that Chinese travellers are showing an increased interest in health, wellness, and nature tourism.

Our survey revealed that travellers are increasingly seeking destinations that offer natural landscapes and wellness activities,” Bhatt said. “This reflects a shift towards more health-conscious travel choices, which opens new opportunities for destinations and service providers to cater to the evolving demands of Chinese travellers.”

China Trading Desk’s Travel Sentiment Survey— querying over 15,000 travellers—also included the following findings:

  • 52.6% of Chinese travellers have a Bachelor’s degree; 59.1% live in Tier-One cities.
  • 39.4% have plans to travel overseas within six months—a rise from Q1’s survey that showed 37.1% had plans to travel overseas within six months.
  • 44.8% plan to increase the frequency of their overseas trips—especially the 18-29 year-old group (70.6%) and the Tier-One group (62.35%)
  • 69% of travellers start booking tickets for overseas trips less than a month in advance, while 16.5% start booking one to six months in advance.
  • 59.2% of travellers intend to stay at their destination for five to ten days, while 18.2% prefer even longer stays of 10-15 days.
  • As in Q1, when it comes to the factors affecting travel plans, respondents cited economic factors (23.7%) followed by health and safety concerns (20.7%)
  • 41.25% of younger travellers (age 18-24) prefer independent travel over group tours, and 53.8% of all respondents share this preference.
  • Food remains a top motivator in travel plans, with 23.4% citing it as a top reason for trips, followed by local culture and history (21.7%), and landmarks (21%).
  • 43% plan to spend at least 25,000 RMB during their overseas travel.
  • To learn about destinations and plan trips, 20.4% of respondents favour using a travel app like Ctrip or Qunar, while 18.4% selected Xiaohongshu, and 12.2% preferred Douyin as their preferred channel for outbound trip planning.
  • More than three-quarters of respondents (77.8%) conduct shopping research before reaching their destination.
  • Friends’ recommendations are the top factor for customers when considering accommodations at 34.4%, outweighing digital ads (24.1%), articles/KOL (18.9%), or online promotions (17.9%).
  • Alipay was the main payment method for outbound travel (22.3%), closely followed by WeChat Pay (21.3%). Debit cards were the least popular method (16.8%).
George Diamantopoulos
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George, in his capacity as an intern, diligently oversees the flow of news, assists in the publication of content, and delves into the strategies of social media distribution. He is currently pursuing his studies in Business Administration at the Athens University of Economics and Business.