January 20 2022  |  Industry News

ForwardKeys reveals Omicron casts shadow over CNY travel

By Wendy Morley

FowardKeys, which monitors air ticketing information globally, reports that recent lockdowns in China imposed due to the Omicron variant, have impacted New Year travel plans for the upcoming holiday period of January 24 through February 13. Bookings are currently 75.3% below those of pre-pandemic times, although up 5.9% vs 2021.

Lockdowns and restrictions are important reasons for this negative impact, but so is government advice. While last year the advice to stay put was quite strict, this year’s advice is to protect one’s health; this could result in some last-minute ticket purchases.

As a reflection of this, lead times in travel bookings in China have dropped dramatically during the pandemic. ForwardKeys reports that 60% of Chinese domestic flights were booked within four days of departure, so a last-minute surge is indeed possible, depending on any new outbreaks of the virus and how these outbreaks might be contained, with a history within the pandemic of exceptionally strong sales once the fear of being stranded in a given place have receded.

Among the top 15 destinations for domestic travel in China, the most resilient destinations are Changchun, reaching 39% of pre-pandemic levels; Sanya, 34%; Shenyang, 32%; Chengdu, 30%; Haikou, 30%; Chongqing, 29%; Shanghai, 26%; Wuhan, 24%; Harbin 24% and Nanjing, 20%. This shows that leisure travel is the most resilient.

Sanya and Haikou have become increasingly popular destinations throughout the pandemic, fueled by the ban on international travel and the duty free agreement between Hainan and the government. According to Hainan’s commerce department, the number of duty-free shoppers grew by 73% in 2021 and sales increased by 83%.

Bing Han Kee, VP Sales – APAC, at ForwardKeys, said: “I am not yet ready to give up hope of a last-minute recovery. The reason: throughout 2021, travel has bounced back strongly as soon as restrictions are lifted, with ever shorter lead times. I am also impressed by the strongly growing enthusiasm for winter sports, which I am sure has been encouraged by publicity surrounding the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.”

REGION Asia

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