GENEVA – THE chief executive officer (CEO) of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is bullish about the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and expects exponential growth over the next decade mainly thanks to a boost from Chinese outbound travelers and foreign visitors to China.
“I have been there (China) many times… and it’s wonderful that the world would be able to open its arms and welcome Chinese visitors again,” Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, told Xinhua in a recent video interview.
In early December 2022, China decided to optimize its COVID-19 response with new prevention and control measures to ease the restrictions on travel and visits to public venues.
Then, on Jan. 8, the Civil Aviation Administration of China relaxed certain COVID-19 restrictions on international passenger flights. “Before the pandemic, travel and tourism used to represent one in 10 jobs globally and one in 10 U.S. dollars that were made globally.
It’s a really significant sector, which brings a lot of economic benefits and a lot of jobs,” Simpson said.
According to a survey conducted last November of more than 26,000 consumers in 25 countries by YouGov for the WTTC, the appetite for international travel was at its highest point since the start of the pandemic with 63 percent of respondents planning a leisure trip in the next 12 months.
It came as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in November said international tourism was on track to reach 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022 as the sector continued to bounce back.
“We all know that our sector was severely damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the good news is that travel and tourism are going to bounce back and will grow over the next 10 years to almost double the rate of global gross domestic product (GDP),” she said.
As a non-profit organization, WTTC’s members include over 200 CEOs, chairpersons and presidents of the world’s leading private sector travel and tourism businesses. Simpson said that after nearly three years, the phenomenon of “revenge travel”, which means traveling to make up for lost time during the pandemic, is expected to lift tourism and boost businesses.
“What we tend to see when people reopen their borders post-pandemic is that you have a lot of pent-up demand for travel. The first such demand comes from family and friends … such as students working in another part of the world,” she said. Outbound Chinese visitors to the rest of the world were “among the most valuable in an economic sense,” Simpson said.
In 2019, those Chinese visitors spent 253 billion U.S. dollars globally, which represented 15 percent of the grand total, according to WTTC.
For travelers from China, Simpson said Maldives and Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand, Europe and the U.S. lead the bucket lists of top destinations.
“I’m almost describing here the whole of the world because, actually, Chinese visitors are now everywhere,” she said.
The favorite attractions for foreign travelers to China may include the Great Wall, and the sights like Chengdu or Guilin, said the CEO.
“People also like to do mountain walking, go shopping, and they love to understand the culture of China,” she said.