The global tourism industry has experienced an extraordinary and far-reaching impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of travel restrictions, lockdowns, and health precautions has led to a substantial decrease in international travel and associated endeavors. These measures, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, including border closures, quarantine mandates, and social distancing guidelines, have caused disruptions to travel arrangements and effectively halted tourism altogether.

The pandemic caused a severe blow to the global economy, with tourism being one of the hardest-hit sectors. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals dropped by 74% in 2020 compared to the previous year, resulting in a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.

Many countries heavily reliant on tourism suffered economic hardships and job losses as a consequence.

Moreover, the pandemic reshaped consumer behavior and preferences. Health and safety concerns became paramount, leading to a shift in travel priorities. Travelers prioritized destinations with stringent health measures and sought more secluded, nature-based, and outdoor experiences.

The pandemic also accelerated digital transformation within the industry, with an increased reliance on contactless technologies, virtual experiences, and online bookings.

As countries gradually reopen and vaccination programs progress, attention turns to tourism revival, including the resurgence of Chinese tourism, which holds significant potential as a primary source and recipient market. 

This article explores the revival of Chinese tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the efforts made by the government, industry stakeholders, and other relevant entities to restore the country’s tourism sector. It examines the current state of Chinese tourism, including domestic and international travel patterns, recovery strategies, policy initiatives, and challenges in the post-pandemic era. Additionally, it provides insights into the future outlook of the industry.

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the current state of Chinese tourism reflects a gradual recovery and a strong resurgence in both domestic and international travel.

Domestic Travel

Domestic tourism has played a crucial role in revitalizing the Chinese tourism industry. With travel restrictions and concerns about international travel, Chinese citizens have turned their focus to exploring their own country.

During the pandemic, China implemented strict containment measures and travel restrictions, which have been gradually eased as the situation improved. This has led to a significant rebound in domestic tourism, with increased travel volumes and spending.

The Chinese government has actively promoted domestic tourism by launching initiatives such as “Double 5” (encouraging citizens to take at least five trips per year) and “Red Tourism” (promoting visits to revolutionary sites). These initiatives have contributed to the recovery of the domestic tourism market.

Furthermore, the China Tourism Academy reported that domestic tourism trips in China reached 4.1 billion in 2020, with a year-on-year increase of 43.7%. This demonstrates the resilience and rebound of domestic tourism demand.

According to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China, domestic tourism revenue during the Labor Day holiday in May 2021 reached 113.2 billion yuan (approximately $17.6 billion), marking a 138.1% increase compared to the same period in 2020. This surge in revenue indicates a robust recovery in domestic travel.

While in 2023, the Chinese Labor Day Holiday saw an explosion in domestic travel and tourism, with spending and movement exceeding 2019 levels as people were able to travel unimpeded for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

International Travel

The recovery of international travel for Chinese tourists has been slower due to ongoing travel restrictions and uncertainties in destination safety. However, as vaccination efforts progressed and countries reopened their borders, international travel gradually resumed.

Chinese tourists, known for their strong purchasing power and interest in outbound travel, are expected to resume their global travel activities. Popular destinations such as Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asian countries are likely to witness increased Chinese tourist arrivals.

Moreover, the Chinese government has implemented travel resumption policies and initiatives, such as the introduction of “fast-track” lanes for vaccinated travelers and the establishment of travel bubbles with certain countries, to facilitate international travel and restore confidence among Chinese tourists.

According to the China Tourism Academy, the number of outbound Chinese tourists reached 3.68 million in the first quarter of 2021, indicating a positive trend of recovery. However, this number represents a decrease of 84.1% compared to the same period in 2019, highlighting the lingering impact of the pandemic on international travel.

Factors Driving the Revival of Chinese Tourism Post-COVID-19
Government Policies and Initiatives:

The Chinese government has implemented various policies and initiatives to stimulate the revival of the tourism industry. These include financial support, tax incentives, and subsidies for tourism businesses, as well as targeted marketing campaigns to promote domestic travel.

For instance, the “Double 5” and “Red Tourism” campaign promote visits to revolutionary sites. These initiatives aim to boost domestic tourism demand and drive the recovery of the sector.

Domestic Focus and Regional Travel:

With international travel restrictions and uncertainties, there has been a shift towards domestic tourism. Chinese tourists are exploring their own country and favor regional travel to nearby destinations. The focus on domestic tourism is supported by the vast geographical and cultural diversity within China, which provides a wide range of travel experiences and attractions for domestic travelers.

Technological Advancements and Innovations:

Technological advancements have played a significant role in facilitating the recovery of Chinese tourism. Digitization and contactless technologies have become essential in ensuring health and safety measures, as well as enhancing the overall travel experience.

Contactless check-ins, mobile payments, virtual tours, and online bookings have gained prominence, enabling a seamless and safe travel experience for both domestic and international tourists.

Consumer Behavior and Preferences:

The pandemic has led to significant changes in consumer behavior and preferences. Health and safety concerns have become paramount, leading to a preference for destinations and accommodations that prioritize hygiene protocols and social distancing measures.

Outdoor and nature-based experiences have gained popularity, as they allow for social distancing and a sense of well-being. There is also an increased interest in sustainable and responsible tourism practices.

Digital Transformation and Online Platforms:

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the tourism industry. Online platforms, travel apps, and social media have become crucial tools for information, booking, and sharing travel experiences.

Online travel agencies (OTAs) and travel-related platforms have adapted their services to cater to the changing needs of travelers, offering flexible booking options, health and safety information, and personalized recommendations.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese tourism industry faces significant challenges in reviving itself while prioritizing the health and safety of travelers. As cautious individuals seek destinations and businesses that demonstrate robust health protocols, the industry must adapt and implement measures to address these concerns. Enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing measures, and health screenings are among the key strategies to employ.

The Chinese tourism industry acknowledges the paramount importance of health and safety in attracting travelers. As the industry strives to revive itself, enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing measures, and health screenings have become indispensable strategies. These measures ensure the safety of travelers and instill confidence in the destinations and businesses they choose.

Furthermore, the Chinese tourism industry faces the complex task of navigating ever-evolving travel regulations. Both domestic and international travel restrictions and requirements undergo frequent updates, creating uncertainty for travelers and impacting their confidence and travel planning. Industry players must stay informed and adapt their operations accordingly to address these challenges effectively.

By proactively addressing health and safety concerns, adapting to changing regulations, and actively promoting the unique opportunities that arise, the Chinese tourism industry can position itself for a successful revival and regain the trust of both domestic and international travelers.

Future Outlook For Chinese Tourism 

Looking ahead, domestic tourism will continue to play a significant role in the Chinese tourism industry. With ongoing uncertainties surrounding international travel, Chinese tourists have been prioritizing domestic trips and will be continued in the near future. This shift in focus presents an opportunity for destinations and businesses to cater to the needs and interests of domestic travelers.

The digital transformation of the tourism industry will persist, reshaping the way people travel and interact with tourism services. Technology will play a crucial role in enhancing the travel experience, streamlining operations, and facilitating contactless services.

Online platforms, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data analytics will continue to revolutionize the industry, offering personalized and immersive experiences for travelers.

The revival of Chinese tourism also brings opportunities in emerging market segments. Travelers are increasingly seeking wellness tourism, ecotourism, and cultural experiences.

The industry can tap into these growing segments by offering services and destinations that align with the preferences of these travelers, emphasizing personal well-being, sustainability, and authentic experiences.

Moreover, the Chinese government’s efforts to promote regional integration, such as the Greater Bay Area initiative, will facilitate tourism flows between cities and regions. This collaboration and joint marketing efforts will enhance the overall tourism experience and drive economic growth in different parts of the country.

In a nutshell, the future outlook of Chinese tourism is promising, with a steady recovery, a focus on sustainability and technology, and the emergence of new market segments.

Stakeholders in the industry must collaborate, adapt to changing consumer needs, and proactively address challenges to sustain the growth and resilience of the Chinese tourism industry.

**The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.