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Re-opening Travel and Tourism in China

This article was originally published on sodexo.com.

As the airline industry begins to formulate and execute plans for restarting after the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes turn to China. As the first nation to get rebuilding underway, China will likely foreshadow the changes coming to other tourism markets and the global travel industry. A May 2020 survey by McKinsey & Company found the following:

  • 60% of Post-Pandemic Bookings by People Under 30

Young, single people without families – an already experienced group of travelers – are most open to resuming travel in the first wave after the crisis. On the first holiday following the lockdown, the percentage of bookings by this cohort grew from 43% to 60% over last year.

  • 60% Growth in Consumer Confidence in Domestic Travel

This dramatic increase – over just two weeks in May 2020 – explains why more than half (55%) of respondents expect their next leisure trip to be inside China. Nevertheless, almost a quarter (23%) predict that their next trip with be international.

  • 54% of Respondents Will Postpone Leisure Trips – But Not for Long

Even with most respondents waiting for an expert’s announcement that it is safe to travel or for the government’s reopening of schools, the majority expect to travel in late September or early October.

  • 68% Will Not Consider Large Group Tours

Cautious travelers will avoid the most popular – and crowded – destinations, seeking instead higher quality experiences such as guided tours in smaller groups. Respondents listed outdoor scenic attractions and vacations centered on food and family as their top choices, with shopping dropping to the bottom of the list.

Overall, it is safe to say that economic considerations will determine the shape of travel in the restarting phase – but the evidence is clear that people still want and expect to travel.

In a global traveler sentiment survey from June 2020, Oliver Wyman found that intention to travel remains strong. More than half of respondents reported no change to their leisure travel, with 18% planning to increase it. Expectations are even higher for business travel – with air travel required: 73% of respondents expect no changes, and 13% predict an increase.

One emerging trend identified by McKinsey is so-called “revenge travel,” trips intended to make up for those canceled or postponed by the global shutdown. The Points Guy reports a strong interest – driven by the new reality that nothing can be taken for granted – in taking one’s dream trip, the epic adventure that people had previously been willing to postpone until “someday.” 

Chinese players are responding to these new trends by improving health and safety measures and helping consumers feel confident about traveling. Airlines, hotels, attractions, and online travel agencies will use targeted campaigns to stimulate demand and generate income, including aggressive pricing and engaging communications on the social media channels so popular with the target demographic.

Sodexo is helping its global airline lounge clients adjust to this new normal with the Rise with Sodexo program, offering of best-in-class practices created by a team of experts and standard operating procedures for enhanced infection control adapted from our global expertise in healthcare facility management and our experience from around the world.

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Our full insights into reopening airport lounges in the COVID-19 environment can be found here:



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Chen, K., W. Enger, J. Yu, and C. Zhang. “Hitting the road again: How Chinese travelers are thinking about their first trip after COVID-19.” Print. McKinsey & Company. May 2020.

Enger, W., S. Saxon, P. Suo, and J. Yu. “The way back: What the world can learn from China’s travel restart after COVID-19.” McKinsey & Company. Print. May 2020.
Fansibar, O., J. Stansbury and G. Alport. “Traveler Sentiment Survey, Edition #1.” Webinar. Oliver Wyman, 10 Jun 2020.

Martin Guo, “Measuring the impact of the coronavirus on China’s consumption,” Kantar, February 13, 2020, uskantar.com. 


August 06, 2020

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