China’s projected 2024 outbound travel boom, airlines double down

    Analysts predict a huge uptick in international Chinese tourism this year, and the likes of Cathay Pacific and British Airways are responding.
    Will 2024 really herald a powerful return of Chinese tourism to the globe?
      Published   in Travel

    What happened

    Although there was much ado about China’s international travel reopening at the start of 2023, the big rebound didn’t materialize as hoped. At the start of 2024, however, multiple analysts predict ‘out of the park’ growth in outbound travel from China this year.

    Oxford Economics outlines predictions that China’s 2024 international trips will roughly double compared to 2023 figures, but remain 22% below 2019's volumes. Reports project that a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels will occur in 2025, and that the Middle East is the region that will recover its Chinese tourism first. The opportunity for luxury travel there seems particularly promising.

    British Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways are both making significant strides to capitalize on this predicted resurgence.

    In response to growing demand for upscale leisure experiences between China and the UK, British Airways is poised to double its Chinese cabin crew to 100, with staff split between Beijing and Shanghai.

    Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Airways is welcoming 100 new cabin crew members from mainland China. The airline is laying the groundwork for a grand vision – to seamlessly blend 1,500 mainland talents into its global workforce by 2025. Cathay's Director of Service Delivery, Mandy Ng says that the move will enhance staff diversity and was an obvious step for the airline.

    Where will Chinese travelers be heading in 2024? Photo: Shutterstock
    Where will Chinese travelers be heading in 2024? Photo: Shutterstock

    The Jing Take

    With projections of a China travel boom, both airlines' moves are telling.

    The commitment seems to be there to meet the needs of China's travelers and we see the retail and hospitality sectors in China’s favorite destinations responding in kind. The adoption of more mainland and Mandarin-speaking talent into global teams is more than just operational enhancement; but also an alignment with the cultural and service expectations of one of the world's most lucrative tourism markets.

    If 2024 goes as analysts predict, this year it is poised to mark a remarkable rebound in China's travel sector, as pent-up demand and increasing consumer confidence fuel a resurgence in both domestic and international travel.

    With the easing of travel restrictions last year and a reinvigorated interest in luxury and experiential travel since, industry forecasts suggest a significant uptick in travel activities for China’s wealthy too. Airlines and hospitality brands are adjusting their operations to serve the contingent.

    This resurgence is not just a recovery, however, but a transformative phase as many returning travelers do so much changed. Different travel trends, shopping preferences, lifestyles and consumer preferences are now driving what they want.

    To fully capitalize on the return of the world’s largest tourism market as well as the highest spenders (according to a study by WTTF, The Bicester Collection and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University) the smartest tourism boards, retailers, hospitality and airline outfits around the world will be carefully tracking what these have become.

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