China's Zero-COVID strategy having a huge effect on the global tourism

6, Mar 2022 |

While there are signs that China might eventually dip out of the 'zero-COVID' strategy, experts have said that it might not be eased this year or even 2023

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, China still is implementing and enforcing very restrictive rules, especially for the Spring Festival and Winter Olympics and still has not relaxed rules even though most of the world right now is opening up to global travel. And this absence of Chinese tourists is affecting tourism-dependant economies in their recovery from the pandemic. 

Chinese travellers spent US$277 billion overseas in 2018 and another US$255 billion in 2019, accounting for almost 20 per cent of all international tourism spending, data from the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) show. As the virus emerged in 2020 – with the first cases in the central Chinese city of Wuhan – their expenditure slumped to US$130.5 billion, most of which would have come in the months before March, when much of the world went into lockdown. Revenue is now a fraction of that. UNWTO reported a 61 per cent drop in spending by Chinese tourists from 2019 levels in the 9 months through September last year.

While there are signs that China might eventually dip out of the 'zero-COVID' strategy, border restrictions. experts have said that any restrictions and measures will not be eased by a significantly moment this year and can even extend to the spring of 2023.  Therefore, this huge vacuum in almost one-fifth of pre-pandemic tourist revenue will remain in place.

This has been very hard on destinations that reliably rely on the Chinese audience. Hong Kong and Macau, bustling centres of tourism and trade have been relatively quiet with Hong Kong with the possibility of losing its status as a global business hub.  Thailand, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian countries are suffering its effects with less than half of the tourism-related businesses open due to absence in tourist volume.  

Many meanwhile have to pivot away from China with Sri Lanka, with Thai and Sri Lankan businesses saying that China is not included in the 2022 tourism development tourism. Tourism destinations will have to deal and move on from the absence from China for at least a year and possibly more.

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