China Outbound: Are We Nearly There Yet?

After January 2023's surprise announcement that some travel in China would be opening back up, our first webinar of last year asked whether China was the key to unlocking global travel.  A year on, we can say that the predicted surge was more of a trickle, but will 2024 be the year that changes?

In January 2024,'s monthly aviation webinar John Grant, OAG's Chief Analyst and Deirdre Fulton, partner at Midas Aviation, were joined by industry guests to examine the data and draw some conclusions on the matter.

Highlights From The Morning Webinar

Simon Westaway, Strategy Director at RoyceComm shared his valuable insight in the morning session, in which the panel started by explaining why the China outbound market is of particular interest. Pre-Covid, it was the biggest outbound market in the world, with a significant growth trajectory in the decade leading up to the pandemic, and is a market of great importance for countries like Japan, Thailand, South Korea and more. As well as providing high volumes of tourists, China's outbound tourists had the highest outbound expenditure of any nationality.

Deirdre noted that very steady growth in China's international airline capacity since early 2023 has brought us to where we are now, with 70% of the level of capacity there was in Q1 2019. John confirmed that it is unlikely 2019 international capacity levels will be reached again this year, however.

Simon explained that Chinese visitors are returning to Australia, having previously been the largest inbound market by volume for the country (surpassing New Zealand by a small margin). However, Tourism Australia's statistics show that previously, 40% of Chinese visitors to the country were holiday-makers, and that figure is currently at around 25%. He added that while this market is coming back, it may not ever be back to the way it was pre-Covid.

Watch China Outbound: Are We Nearly There Yet? Morning Session


Michael Jones is co-founder of Create Consulting specialising in communications and consulting in China, and he joined us to share his expertise in the afternoon. He explained that it's Chinese pensioners that have cash and want to travel, and as restrictions have eased, there is some evidence that their travel preferences have shifted toward adventure and nature-based tourism.  So while outbound travel may have been slower to return than expected, there are some sectors which are doing very well at the moment.

Conversation moved along to visas, where a lot of changes are underway and there seems to be a concerted effort to make travel between countries easier. Michael noted that this demonstrates that China still has options in its 'armoury' and an ability to surprise. John added that with the Chinese travel industry needing to recover, they cannot afford to have barriers in the way.

Watch China Outbound: Are We Nearly There Yet? AFTERNOON Session

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