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Chinese travelers are increasingly choosing domestic destinations within China over expensive foreign tourist spots. A survey by consulting firm Oliver Wyman found that only 14% of high-income households planning to travel internationally again in 2024. The top reason for preferring domestic travel was the abundance of options within China, coupled with the high cost of international travel. The average cost per person for traveling within mainland China is significantly lower than traveling to destinations like Hong Kong or Japan.

Local tourism has been a bright spot in China’s recovery from Covid-19 restrictions, with bookings for rural destinations in China growing by 2.6 times compared to pre-pandemic levels. During a recent public holiday, domestic tourism trips and revenue surged, while international trips lagged behind. Smaller cities like Yangzhou, Luoyang, and Guilin saw the fastest growth in tourism bookings during the holiday period. Domestic tourism is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels this year, according to experts.

While domestic tourism in less developed parts of China has seen a significant increase in interest due to social media and television exposure, it remains to be seen if this growth is sustainable in the long term. Local governments have been leveraging social media platforms like Douyin and Xiaohongshu to attract tourists, with promotional videos going viral and attracting millions of viewers. Television shows featuring specific regions have also helped boost tourism, with food being a major draw for Chinese tourists.

The expansive network of high-speed trains and flights in China has made it easier for people to explore small towns and cities for short trips. Chinese consumers are increasingly seeking emotional fulfillment and personalized travel experiences, leading to a surge in domestic air ticket bookings. Businesses and local governments are collaborating to boost attention to various destinations, with initiatives like the Miss Tourism Asia pageant being used for promotions.

Experts predict that a full recovery in international travel to 2019 levels may not come until late 2025, with Chinese consumers currently favoring domestic travel. International tourist destinations will need to upgrade their offerings to match the rise of stylish, modern hotels and travel services in China. As travel preferences and behaviors continue to evolve, countries around the world will need to adapt to attract Chinese tourists and remain competitive in the global tourism market.

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