The outbreak of coronavirus infection in China has caused a substantial setback in flight bookings for the Chinese New Year period from January 10 to February 6, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys.
The Chinese New Year holiday season typically begins a fortnight before Golden Week; and travel reaches its peak just before Golden Week starts. This year, outbound travel reached a new peak and the season was on course to break all records. However, on the week of January 20, travel restrictions were introduced; and the last batch of Chinese holidaymakers was forced to stay at home. By January 26 a slew of cancellations had changed the picture dramatically. Although the vast majority had left before the travel restrictions took effect, the prospect of a record-breaking year was gone.
Up to January 19, outbound travel bookings from China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan, where political unrest has impacted travel) were 7.3% ahead, benchmarked against the equivalent period in 2019; a week later, as of January 26, when Wuhan airport was closed and the Chinese government stopped outbound tour groups from traveling, bookings for the Chinese holiday period were 6.8% behind.
The dramatic slowdown has affected travel to all parts of the world. Asia Pacific, the region which attracts over 75% of Chinese New Year travelers, has been worst hit. As of January 19, bookings were 1.3% behind where they were at the equivalent moment in 2019; a week later, they were 15.1% behind. The deterioration seen for other global regions has been similar, but a little less severe. As of January 19, bookings to the Americas were 14.3% behind, to Africa and the Middle East were 0.7% behind and to Europe were 10.5% ahead. A week later, bookings to the Americas were 22.5% behind, to Africa and the Middle East were 9.9% behind and to Europe were 0.5% ahead.
China as a destination has also been severely affected by the coronavirus crisis. Up to January 19, inbound bookings for the Chinese New Year period were 4.5% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year. A week later, they were 7.2% behind. The weakest origin market has been the Americas, where bookings fell from 0.4% ahead to 13.4% behind. Asia Pacific, China’s largest source market, with a 65% share of visitors, has fallen from 6.0% ahead to 6.2% behind. Healthy growth in bookings from Africa & the Middle East has stalled from 10.9% ahead to 3.9% ahead and bookings from Europe have fallen from 1.0% ahead to 7.1% behind.
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