China domestic tourism gets fresh impetus
Endless theme park queues and sold-out ticket booths never looked better as China's "cooped-up" consumers are stepping out again after the COVID-19 outbreak has been largely brought under control domestically.
Hotel bookings have returned to about 50 percent of normal levels, while airlines have generally resumed operations at more than half of their capacity, based on information from industry leaders.
According to the Government Work Report unveiled on May 22 during this year's two sessions, China will extend the exemption of value-added taxes for the tourism industry until the end of the year, and will support the recovery and development of tourism as part of efforts to shore up consumption.
It's worth noting that tourism demand has been partially curbed by tough crowd-gathering control measures to reduce infection risks. The ministry ordered scenic park operators to cap visitor numbers at 30 percent of their capacity during the May Day holiday.
A gradual recovery in domestic tourism could offer a dose of encouragement to other countries looking ahead to life after lockdowns, including the release of pent-up demand among consumers. For many people, travel is a way to vent their stress and frustration from lockdowns.
Yet the rebound could be tentative with risks lingering. More data are needed to know when a full recovery might blossom.
So far, Chinese travelers are still showing a cautious preference for short-distance trips. Many prefer driving for a few hours to a nearby town for weekends, where they may stay for a night－and spend much less than if they go further away and travel by rail or air.
All this indicates that people feel relieved now that the worst of the novel coronavirus epidemic is over and they are mulling travel once again. But it's unrealistic to expect any V-shape rebound.
We may initially see a gradual recovery in domestic tourism, followed by short-haul regional travel where the epidemic is well contained. Visibility is low for the normalization of long-haul international travel.