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Seat capacity for China outbound improves in Q2, says ForwardKeys

APAC holds the largest share of seats.

VALENCIA – ForwardKeys, leading travel analytics firm in the market, announced ahead of its webinar with Dragon Trail International on April 26 that outbound China travel will grow in Q2 as more seats connect Chinese travellers to the world. The APAC region currently holds the largest share at 81%, with a recovery rate of 43% in Q2. Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan are the best-connected destinations with China.

Northeast Asian travel destinations Japan and South Korea remain highly popular among Chinese travellers despite travel restrictions on Chinese visitors imposed by these countries earlier in the year, according to the latest consumer survey data from Dragon Trail International.

The April survey polled 1,012 mainland travellers about their plans and preferences for outbound travel. Hong Kong remained the clear top choice for mainland Chinese travellers in 2023, followed by Macau. Looking beyond Greater China, Thailand is still the no. 1 country that Chinese travellers plan to visit in 2023, followed by Japan and South Korea. Like previous Dragon Trail surveys, France and Australia were the top long-haul destinations for Chinese travellers this year.

“Even though travel restrictions in Japan and South Korea received a lot of attention in January, these destinations are still very attractive to Chinese tourists,” said Yelinuer Kadeerbieke, Market Research Analyst for Dragon Trail.

“The results should come as a relief to other destinations that might be concerned about the impact of travel restrictions earlier this year.”

The consumer sentiment is on the money as the latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys shows the same destinations with the highest travel demand.

Seat Capacity from China has been enhanced

As the airline industry commences its summer season on March 26th, seat capacity for Chinese outbound travel has been enhanced. Africa and the Middle East are set to increase the most, with 75% in Q2, although the market share is small, as only 6% of total international capacity is from China.

The United Arab Emirates is the most well-connected destination in its region, with a 44% share; while the number of seats between China and Kenya has doubled since 2019, driven by Kenya Airways; Egypt has also experienced a 10% growth, both Egypt air and Sichuan airlines in China have increased the seats. These three countries are included in the destination list of the approved group tours and have a close relationship with China through the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.

“Seat capacity recovery to Europe is driven by Chinese airlines, as European airlines are facing a significant hurdle: far longer flights due to the closure of Russian airspace, while Chinese airlines can still use that airspace. Also, some of the European airlines are having challenges with a shortage of staff, strikes and hub airport constraints,” says Nan Dai, China Market Expert at ForwardKeys.

Capacity to the Americas in Q2 is set to recover only 10% of pre-pandemic seats, as the United States is a major destination, and many airlines have yet to restore their capacity in the China-US market.

ICN connects Chinese travellers with the world

Due to the current absence of direct flights between China and the United States, Hong Kong (HKG) and Seoul (ICN) are becoming even more popular for connecting traffic.

Analysing airport hub performance in the China-Europe airline market reveals that the busiest hubs are AMS, DXB, FRA, IST, and ICN. ICN has gained popularity by achieving an impressive 375% increase in connecting travellers compared to 2019 levels.

“Most Chinese passengers who use ICN as a connecting hub are travelling to France and the UK in Europe, as direct capacity from China to these two destinations has decreased by 85% and 58%, respectively,” adds Dai.

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