Domestic dominates in China

By Piers Lee

Travel intent in China continued to favour the domestic market, according to our latest Hotel Guest Survey.

The study found that 87% of leisure guests had already booked a domestic stay, or were highly likely to, while overseas leisure remained repressed, with 43% of travellers eyeing a break.

China’s zero-covid policy meant a sudden end to international travel from what had become one of the most important future source markets for the rest of the world.

It is still not clear when unrestricted travel will return, so until then, the travel and tourism sector must lean on the domestic market.

The domestic leisure market has dominated the sector during the pandemic, with an average of 7.6 leisure trips taken over the past two years, against 2.8 overseas leisure trips. For those planning future breaks, city breaks were popular both at home and overseas.

Perhaps looking to relax after the stress of the pandemic, those booking leisure trips without children and those planning business trips were looking for comfortable, well-equipped bedrooms, while those travelling with children sought entertainment and facilities for children.

While travel in China over the past two years has been the most restricted in the world, business trips have not been limited in the same way as we have seen elsewhere around the globe.

Domestic business trips undertaken during the period were at the same level as leisure trips, at 7.6, with Generation Y travellers undertaking an average of 9.0 separate journeys, underlying the important of face-to-face communication in the country’s corporate world.

Hotel websites and the OTAs were duelling for the guests’ money, with 32% of guests perceiving that the hotels’ own websites offered the best rates, against 34% favouring the OTAs. When it came to booking, hotel brand sites were dominant, accounting for 87% of business trips and 85% of leisure travel.

Shangri-La was the highest ranking brand in the country, followed by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

China has a robust OTA market, led by Ctrip, but it also has a powerful branded domestic hotel market which was quick to adopt digital booking technology and has continued to innovate.

Many of the global hotel companies targeted China for expansion prior to the pandemic, with domestic companies such as Huazhu also starting to grow overseas, catering to the country’s outbound travellers.

There has been a cessation to this travel but neither the international nor global flags look likely to pull back from what promises to be a lucrative market.

To find out more, please get in touch with Piers.

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