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Travel and tourism industry in China - statistics & facts

Tourism has become an essential contributor to China's domestic economy since the beginning of reform and opening in the early eighties. The emergence of an affluent middle class and an easing of movement restrictions for locals and foreign visitors were both supporting this travel boom. The Chinese tourism market has transformed into one of the world's most-watched inbound and outbound tourist markets. The number of domestic trips reached six billion in 2019, indicating an exponential increase compared to the number of trips made in China ten years ago.

The total revenue generated by the travel and tourism industry in China amounted to around 6.6 trillion yuan as of 2019, indicating a firm growth over the past decade. Meanwhile, more than 28 million people worked in the tourism industry. The impact of tourism on China's employment market was even larger if indirect employment is considered.

China boasts a large number of attractions, such as historical sites and relics, economic hot spots, and a culturally diverse number of minorities. Therefore, the country has become one of the most popular travel destinations for many countries, such as Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In 2019, the 145-million inbound tourists created a total revenue of nearly 36 billion U.S. dollars in China. The majority of the inbound tourists arrived at Guangdong, a southern province adjacent to Hong Kong SAR.

For outbound tourism, expenditure of Chinese outbound travelers reached approximately 255 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. Southeast Asia as well as neighboring countries and regions were among the most popular travel destinations for Chinese travelers, followed by Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

In the beginning of 2020, as the world faced the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, the travel and tourism industry quickly became one of the most affected economic sectors globally. Worldwide travel restrictions put millions of employees in the travel industry out of jobs and numerous hotels, travel agencies, and even airline companies out of business. China witnessed a 60 percent dip in tourism revenue, around 80 percent decrease in visitor arrivals and almost 87 percent drop in tourist departures in 2020. The numbers of travelers, tourism spending, and revenues increased only slightly in 2021.

Even until early 2022, the Chinese government continued to delay any international opening. Macao was the only destination outside of mainland China to which Chinese citizens could travel for leisure, with no quarantine required on arrival or return. Meanwhile, foreigners still could not enter China for purposes of tourism. Some interviews with Chinese epidemiologists as well as the projections of the China Tourism Academy indicated that the Chinese border reopening for traveling is likely to happen in the second half of 2022.

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