Chinese cold on overseas travel even if COVID curbs ease: survey

Fear of infection appears as the top concern of those who are reluctant to travel in a survey of 4,000 Chinese consumers.

More than half of Chinese will postpone overseas travel for periods of several months to more than a year, even if borders reopen tomorrow, according to a survey, a sign that consumers’ recovery from COVID-19 measures 19 will take time.

Mainland China retains some of the world’s strictest measures on PCR testing and quarantine for international travelers, despite some national easing after the unprecedented COVID protests last month.

Fear of infection with the disease was the top concern among those who said they would postpone travel in a survey of 4,000 consumers in China published by consultancy Oliver Wyman, with concerns about changes to national re-entry guidelines second.

“People have become cautious,” said Imke Wouters, a retail and consumer goods partner at the firm. “So even when they can travel, we don’t think they’ll be back right away.”

Up to 51 percent of those surveyed plan to delay international travel. And when they do, short-haul destinations will be the first to benefit, the consultancy said in her study, “China Consumption Recovery.”

Hong Kong’s Asian financial hub topped travel wish lists, with 34 percent of respondents saying it would be their first stop after reopening.

The late-October poll followed the ruling Communist Party’s 20th Congress in Beijing, which led President Xi Jinping to an unprecedented third term as leader, in an event many hoped would herald a post-COVID opening.

China was previously the world’s largest outbound tourism market, but its foreign visitors, who spent $127.5 billion on such trips in 2019, all but disappeared after it all but closed international borders in early 2020 and curtailed travel. non-essential citizens.

China’s uncompromising “COVID zero” effort has hit the economy hard, and it is expected to reshape policies soon, though analysts have warned that any reopening will be complicated and bumpy.

As many as 83 percent of executives in China who responded to the survey said “a long road to recovering consumer confidence” will affect their mainland business over the next year.

While the report found consumer sentiment weakened by lockdowns and economic uncertainty, Wouters said Chinese consumers still showed a willingness to increase spending next year if conditions improve.

Nearly half, or 44 percent, of those surveyed cited an increase in personal savings as a reason they are likely to spend more in the coming year.

China’s household deposits rose to 13 trillion yuan ($1.87 trillion) from January to September this year, up from 8.5 trillion yuan ($1.22 trillion) for the corresponding period. of 2021.

Most of the spending in the next 12 months will be focused on personal wellness in areas related to health, fitness or wellness.

The outlier, according to Wouters, was Gen Z, the group born in the period spanning the late 1990s and early 2010s, who would focus on “living in the moment” spending.

“We don’t expect to see the same boom in luxury spending that we saw in 2021,” he said. “But any growth we see will be driven by Generation Z.”

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