Increase in independent travellers and longer holidays behind outbound surge

Free independent travel, or FIT for short, is giving a major boost to Chinese outbound travel, according to the latest survey by ForwardKeys.

Analysis of outbound tourism in the rst four months of this year reveals that Free Independent Travel (FIT) grew by 12.7%. The travel intelligence company also attributed the rise in Chinese travellers to the way the Chinese government has allocated public holidays, thus creating more opportunities for people to take breaks abroad.

The growth is a direct consequence of “two major trends, an increased enthusiasm for travel independently, as opposed to in groups, and more people are seizing the opportunity to travel abroad over major public holidays,” explained Oliver Ponti, VP Insights at ForwardKeys, which forecasts travel trends by analysing over 17-million ight booking transactions a day.

“It reflects a growing confidence in doing one’s own thing”, said Olivier, “particularly in the case of younger and more experienced travellers.”

The trends were particularly marked during the Chinese New Year, at the end of January and early February, which is the busiest time for Chinese outbound travel.

Chinese FIT outbound travel grew by 18.8% during 2019’s Chinese New Year holiday, compared to 2018. FIT travel has also surged over the last public holidays, Qingming in April, Labour Day in May and the Dragon Boat festival in June.

An increase in seat capacity has helped to fuel the growth in travel to Europe. Over the past year, seat capacity from China to London increased by 24.8%, compared to the year before, thanks to the addition of nine new routes. Capacity to Paris increased 8.1%, thanks to ve new routes and capacity to Rome increased 31.7% from one new route.

In Q2 2019, 88 flights per week were scheduled between China and the UK, up from 65 weekly ights in Q2 2018. And there is more to come, as bilateral trade agreements provide for further capacity growth from China to the UK, France and Italy. The strong growth is being fuelled by Shanghai, where FIT outbound bookings for a trip between May and August were 22.4% ahead compared to the same period in 2018, Guangzhou where they are 28.7% ahead and eleven second tier cities which are collectively 25.8% ahead.

This year, several countries have eased visa regulations in a bid to attract more Chinese visitors. Singapore now allows Chinese travellers to enter visa-free for up to 96 hours, either on the way to a third destination or on the way back home and Japan further simplified the visa application process for Chinese students and repeat visitors.