Chinese tourism outbound flows to HK and Macau to only rebound fully by 2023 – Report

Tourism flows from Mainland China to Macau and Hong Kong will likely only rebound to pre-pandemic levels by the second quarter of 2023, the Economist Intelligence Unit indicated.

In a report centred on the recovery of the Chinese outbound tourism, the research and analysis division of Economist Group expects Chinese authorities will not relax all quarantine requirements travellers for tourists returning from Hong Kong and Macau until late 2022.

Before the pandemic, around 42 per cent of Chinese outbound tourism, almost 155 million in 2019, was to Hong Kong and Macau.

However, Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand, which were previously Chinese tourists’ top destinations, respectively recorded drops of 93.8 per cent, 83 per cent and 88.6 per cent in Chinese tourists last year due to the pandemic.

Local visitation has gradually increased as Chinese authorities removed travel restrictions, reaching 1.7 million between January and March, a number still 46 per cent lower than in the same period the year before.

“The recovery of Chinese outbound tourism will depend on the rollout of vaccines, both in China and globally. Under our core forecast, we expect China to achieve widespread vaccination (60 per cent of its population) in the second quarter of 2022,” the report adds.

“However, we do not expect the government to relax quarantine requirements for tourists returning from overseas immediately once widespread vaccination is achieved”.

Currently, only travellers coming from Hong Kong are required to quarantine upon returning to Mainland China, with returns from Macau only requiring a valid negative nucleic acid test.

“The recovery of tourism flows to other destinations will be more protracted, as the Chinese authorities will take more time to gauge their safety for Chinese travellers […] The first group of countries to record a recovery in Chinese visitors will be developed economies, as they will be the first to achieve widespread vaccination,” the report added. 

The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that total Chinese outbound tourism flows will surpass pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2024, but will not recover to their potential by the end of our forecast period (2021‑25)