Decoding China’s Spring Festival Statistics

Chinese passengers board Air China flight

China’s Spring Festival travel and tourism statistics are huge. 

We have become accustomed to this reality over the past decade.

It is an inevitable function of the nation’s vast geographical size, population and economic prowess. In a country with upward of 1.4 billion people, analysing the numbers matters.

Take 2019, for example. This is the last year that reliable base level travel information can be gleaned.

Figures from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) show that 170 million outbound trips were made from China. Of these, 74.5 million were to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and 95.5 million to destinations worldwide.

That outbound total, no matter how impressive, is overpowered by the size and scale of China’s domestic travel sector.

In 2019, some 6.01 billion trips were made with China.

Yes, 6.10 billion!

It will take time for either Chinese outbound our domestic to rescale those heights given the current constrained uncertainties. However, even when – due to COVID-19 suppression measures – China’s travel and tourism industry is performing below par, the statistics remain eye-watering.

DashBoard Issue #26


This weekly stats deck in Issue # 26 of Asia Travel Re:Set, When Will Chinese Outbound Travellers Return?, highlighted three newly published figures showing that even though domestic travel has held up well in China over recent months, the travel industry shortfalls are vast.

1) Optimistic Forecast?

It may transpire that the 1.15 billion domestic trip estimate for Chinese New Year in 2021 was optimistic. Government measures in place nationwide to reduce travel during the 40-day holiday season. However, if realised, it would mark a sizeable 20% drop from 2020, and a significant 60% from 2019. In fact, it would be the lowest Chinese New Year trip total since China began publishing this data in 2003.

2) World’s Busiest Airport

The world’s busiest airport in 2020? Guangzhou Baiyun’s impressive airport passenger total during the pandemic year of 2020 enabled it to claim it handled more passengers than Atlanta Hatfield-Jackson, which usually ranks as the world’s most busiest airport. Even so, Guangzhou’s 43.77 million passengers last year represents a notable slump from 73.39 million in 2019.

3) Big, But Not That Big!

Any destination in the world would gladly welcome 600,000 visitors in a single month – especially right not. For Macau, the December 2020 arrivals figure of 659,407 compares unfavourably to 3.01 million in December 2019, and 3.6 million in December 2018.

If you enjoyed this piece about China’s Spring Festival travel statistics, read the full Issue #26 of Asia Travel Re:Set, When Will Chinese Outbound Travellers Return? HERE

Or read the 60-second speed-read summary HER

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