Chinese consumers optimistic on post-COVID travel

Photo: Ethan Robertson

Beaches, scenic tourist cities and natural and cultural world heritage sites are the top three post-pandemic destinations for Chinese consumers a Griffith University-led study has found.

“Chinese consumers want destinations offering comfort and escape,” says lead author Dr Xin Jin from Griffith Business School.

The researchers analysed more than 3000 responses covering all of mainland China except Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

“With an average of 109 responses per region, the results provide a truly nationwide profile,” Dr Jin said.

“Our study suggests Chinese consumers will combine their recreational desires with health and safety concerns, ranking destinations like beaches, which also have more space for social distancing, higher than crowded destinations like theme parks.”

The study found higher-income earners were also more likely to travel than lower-income earners, rating their preference for overseas destinations significantly higher than all other groups. However, lower-income groups (earning less than 7000 USD and 7000-14,000 USD per year) were the most likely to take up package tour deals.

“Buying power is especially strong among those earning over 14,000 USD and above, as they own property with either a small mortgage or no mortgage, giving them more discretionary income,” Dr Jin said.

“The study shows there is a sizable and stable segment of mainland Chinese tourists and they are the main source market for a post-pandemic rebound in domestic and outbound travel, so it is important to understand their motivations and concerns.

“Identifying this consumer segment is vital because China’s tourism consumption patterns have evolved differently from Western nations.”

Australia-China relations: no major effect on tourism found

Study participants were also asked whether they would prioritise choosing overseas countries friendly and supportive to China during the pandemic but Dr Jin said the results showed this would not be a significant factor in choosing a destination.

“Australia’s strained political relationship with China shouldn’t be a major factor in outbound tourism, but the survey was done in March 2020 before relations deteriorated.”

Despite the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Jin said the study had positive news for the tourism industry and should follow a similar trajectory to other health epidemics like SARS.

“The recovery of consumer confidence in travel will take time. But given the intensity of COVID-19, our survey results suggest that travel demand is only temporarily suppressed and could rebound quickly once it is seen as relatively safe.”

Profiling and evaluating Chinese consumers regarding post-COVID-19 travel is published in Current Issues in Tourism.

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