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Confidence raising in China's epidemic-hit tourism

TL;DR --

  • 71.5 percent of the respondents would travel after the outbreak ends.

  • Ctrip flight bookings saw a +200% increase in sales post SARS compared to previous year.

  • announced a travel revival plan by investing 1 billion yuan with hundreds of destinations and some 10,000 tourism suppliers.

  • Recommended to start brand (re)building activities now, pacing slowly before building momentum.

I have been pushing publishing of this post hoping that the situation would turn soon and a more appropriate time is just around the corner, but no time is better than NOW. I have been getting a lot of queries from our clients & prospects about the constantly evolving business/travel situation and what the future holds.

A recent article in Xinhua highlights the survey done by China Tourism Academy -- 71.5 percent of the respondents would travel after the outbreak ends and everything stabilises for a while, and 20.7 percent would go traveling as soon as possible after the epidemic. While the current situation is gloomy (although it is improving in China, the impact on other countries does have Chinese as concerned), there is solace in drawing some parallels from the SARS outbreak and the quick recovery the economy saw post epidemic.

Ctrip flight bookings saw over 200% increase in sales Y-o-Y for July 2003 and over 82% increase month-on-month. They also saw a major uplift in flights booking Y-o-Y for 2003 Golden Week and 2004 CNY saw a similar travel surge compared to 2003.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ctrip recently announced 1 Billion yuan plan to revive travel bookings on the platform. The plan will involve destination government authorities, airlines, hotels, travel agencies and tourist attraction operators. has launched pre-sales of admissions to some 300 scenic spots, air tickets, accommodation and tour packages for 1,000 tourist routes which can be used anytime within the year. While this is largely domestic focused, it is predicted to have international packages included soon.

Our Recommendations

While the situation is still precarious in China & around the world, the sentiment within China is turning positive - No new local cases outside of Hubei; Wuhan closes all 16 temporary hospitals; President Xi visits Wuhan. Chinese consumers are feeling more relaxed and are more receptive to seeing general advertising messages now without feeling that the brands are being insensitive.

  • Start your messaging early, focus more on your brand rather than any tactical or promotional messages. Consider messages that are simple and impactful to help consumers keep your brand in their mind as situation further improves.

  • For hospitality & tourism destinations, consider live streaming options to showcase your product highlights in real-time. While not a lot of tourist might not be around, this is a great time to present your products in its natural live environment to provide a more realistic feel to avid travellers.

  • Prepare and be ready with more tactical & promotional messages. As the tide turns in the next few weeks, be one of the first to take advantage of the optimist to convince the consumers on your product & services.

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