China was the first to be affected by Covid-19, so it stands to reason that the Chinese tourism industry may be the first to recover. Already, the first green shoots may be starting to appear as domestic flights in China take to the skies once more.
High demand is expected during China’s Labour Day holiday period at the beginning of May. While it’s impossible for international travel from and to China to see a bounce-back right now with so many country borders remaining closed, several domestic carriers has resumed flying and even added extra routes in expectation of what has been dubbed “revenge travel”.
Airlines including China United Airlines, China Eastern, Fuzhou Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Air Guilin and Guizhou Airlines are experiencing high demand from residents who are no longer in quarantine and want to fly home or to visit family.
China’s Labour Day holiday is a week-long break from May 1, which usually heralds the start of the busy summer season. If China does see significant recovery, it could be a could sign for the aviation and travel industry for the rest of the summer months.
According to travel industry behemoth Trip.com, bookings in the first two weeks of April for flights, along with rail and bus travel, were up threefold compared to the same period the previous year. The trips are being booked to areas of China with low numbers of Covid-19 cases, with airlines set to operate domestic flights to tourism hotspots such as Guilin in Guangxi and Sanya in Hainan.
Chinese Airlines, which collectively suffered a whopping $5.6bn loss during the first quarter of the year are now offering hefty discounts to kickstart recovery. The Chinese media has dubbed the deals “bok choy price” travel as a ticket can cost less than the cost of purchasing vegetables. Flight tickets at many airlines are selling at 10 or 20% of their usual value in a bid to get travellers back into the skies.
Meanwhile, airlines are also looking to allay fears about being in proximity to other passengers. China Express, for example, is essentially selling six seats for the price of one to ensure passengers have personal space while flying.
Whether the predicted Labour Day flying frenzy really does take place in China remains to be seen. But if it does, domestic travel may relieve some of the burden faced by airlines in China who, like their counterparts across the world, are facing heavy losses.