BEIJING: Travel company Trip.com Group expects a surge in demand for outbound travel from China once COVID-19 restrictions ease, but in the meantime is focusing on "personalised" packages for domestic tourism, its CEO said on Wednesday.
Travel within China, which has severely restricted international travel, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in terms of number of trips taken during the five-day Labour Day holiday that began May 1, but revenue lagged levels in 2019 before the pandemic.
Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com, the country's biggest online travel services company, said Chinese tourists are more inclined to travel in smaller groups with family or close friends, instead of with dozens of strangers.
"They are also more interested in choices that are more personalised and flexible," she told a Reuters Newsmaker event.
Chinese government data showed that around 230 million domestic trips were made during the long May 1 holiday, 3.2per cent higher than in 2019 before the pandemic. But total tourism revenues were only 77per cent of pre-virus levels at 113.23 billion yuan (US$17.6 billion), the government data showed.
Sun said prospects for outbound travel looked bright once the pandemic is contained and more people globally are vaccinated. The most-searched European destinations on Trip.com's platforms include the UK, Switzerland, Italy and Greece, she said.
"The demand is there," she said. "People's buying power is strong."
(US$1 = 6.4425 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Sophie Yu and Tony Munroe. Editing by Jane Merriman)