China's domestic air travel rebounds to over 50% of level seen in 2019

A traveller walks past a departures information board at Beijing Capital International Airport on Feb 1, 2020.
A traveller walks past a departures information board at Beijing Capital International Airport on Feb 1, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Domestic air travel in China has rebounded to more than 50 per cent of the level seen last year based on issued tickets as the country gradually emerges from coronavirus lockdowns, travel analytics company ForwardKeys said on Friday (May 29).

ForwardKeys also noted a significant uptick in last-minute domestic bookings, with 72 per cent of tickets issued between May 11 and May 21 falling within four days of the travel date, compared with 51 per cent during the same time last year.

"The revival will certainly be welcomed by everyone in the tourism industry but it needs to be kept in perspective because at the moment the business is mostly local; and, typically, the shorter the distance people travel, the less they tend to spend," the company said.

The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China, which reopened sooner than most countries after its coronavirus lockdowns, for clues to travel patterns as other economies gradually ease curbs.

Forward bookings for domestic hotels and air travel have rebounded to more than 70 per cent of previous levels, Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip parent Trip.com Group, said during an earnings call on Thursday.

"To date, reservations for short-haul travel products, such as hotels within same provinces and same cities, attraction tickets and car rental services, are approaching a full recovery," Ms Sun said.

Despite the encouraging recovery in the domestic market, analysts and travel companies expect a rebound in international travel is still distant as countries around the world guard against a second wave of infections.

The U.. embassy in Beijing said on Friday that China's aviation regulator was planning to extend its limits on international flights until June 30.

Sun said Trip.com believed outbound travel demand during the summer break this year would be converted into domestic travel.