In early March 2020, Dragon Trail Research conducted a survey of Chinese travelers to gather insight for the travel industry on prospects for the recovery of Chinese tourism, and how the COVID-19 crisis may impact Chinese consumers’ intention to travel and travel priorities.

 Our Top Takeaways

– 88% of respondents have canceled or delayed travel plans due to the coronavirus crisis. Half said they would travel when the crisis is over, with 19% reporting that they either would not travel or were afraid to travel.

– Travelers born in the 1990s were the most optimistic about when recovery will happen, and likely to travel sooner than older respondents. They are also the most likely age group to have increased travel budgets after the crisis. This will be an important target audience for travel marketers once recovery begins.

– Instead of an explosive rebound during any one holiday period, the survey data leads us to believe that we are likely to see several smaller waves of growth for Chinese travel, starting in May at the earliest, followed by summer holiday months and October.

– The crisis has changed travel priorities, and there is now increased appeal for less populated areas, with high interest in nature tourism, small towns, and self-driving. Post-80s and post-70s generations show increased interest in wellness tourism now than before the crisis.

– The crisis has made many respondents closer with their families, and they plan to prioritize spending leisure and travel time with family in the future. We would expect family travel to become an even more important form of travel than before the crisis.

– Among the most significant reasons preventing Chinese from traveling in the future are fears about health and safety, as well as lack of money and time due to the crisis. While there is very little that travel brands can do about the latter, apart from major discounts, post-crisis marketing will need to put forth a strong message about health and sanitation to convince travelers it is safe to visit.

Original Travel Plans

The coronavirus crisis and its subsequent travel bans began in China just at the start of the Chinese New Year period at the end of January, one of the most important times of year for both domestic and outbound travel. Consequently, many survey respondents originally planned to travel during that time. Around half of the respondents were originally planning domestic tourism, and over one-third either planned to visit family or not travel during the period. Respondents in first-tier and new first-tier cities were more likely to have plans for outbound travel compared to respondents from second-tier cities. 35% of respondents in first-tier and new first-tier cities either did not have travel plans or visited family during the outbreak, compared to 42% of respondents from second-tier and below cities.

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