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China’s air traffic drops 50% YoY making Asia Pacific no longer world’s largest travel region

China’s air traffic drops 50% YoY making Asia Pacific no longer world’s largest travel region
Dino Kurbegovic

Stringent Covid-19 curbs in China are reducing the economy’s flexibility, with holiday tourists and flights in general far lower compared to pre-pandemic days. 

The newest data from the Center for Aviation (CAPA) shows that the Asia Pacific will not be the world’s largest travel region by the end of this year, as travel in Europe will overtake it and crown the old continent as the largest travel region in 2022.

Meanwhile, in a Twitter post, Bloomberg’s top forecaster, Christophe Barraud, highlighted that air traffic in China crashing again, with the number of flights down almost 50% year-on-year (YoY), primarily due to new restrictive measures after the Golden Week.  

Air traffic in China. Source: Twitter 

Numbers game

While aviation in China is down over 48% compared to pre-pandemic levels, aviation in Europe has recovered to around 85% of pre-pandemic levels, according to data retrieved by  Finbold from Airportia

In 2019, 3.38 billion passengers were recorded across the Asia Pacific airports, while current predictions indicate ‘only’ 1.84 billion passengers will pass through these airports by the end of the year.  

Meanwhile, the regional vice president for Asia-Pacific, Philip Goh, claimed that 73-74% of pre-pandemic traffic should return by the end of this year. Though this new estimate is slightly higher than the previously expected 70-73% of the recovery, Goh says that China is burdened by manpower issues and economic headwinds. 

Xie Xingquan, IATA’s regional vice president for North Asia, which covers Mainland China, commented that the recovery should take place through international travel, not just domestic, as China was a huge generator of international travel as well and that the country should resume this role in the future.   

China tourists stay home

The week-long National Day holiday (Golden Week) saw an influx of 422 million tourist trips across China, which is 18.2% less than last year, making only 60.7% of pre-Covid 2019 travel levels. Further, the tourists spent $40.37 billion, down 26.2% YoY and only 44.2% of what was spent during pre-pandemic 2019 days. 

Moreover, Chinese tourists favored shorter trips, focusing on more open areas like suburban parks, countryside, and city parks, probably due to tough Covid restrictions and fewer crowds in those more open spaces. 

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