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WTM Global Report: China holds back APAC’s recovery but bumper growth to come over next decade

WTM Global Report: China holds back APAC’s recovery but bumper growth to come over next decade

New research released today by WTM reveals that while Chinese tourism has yet to recover from the pandemic, growth will return and by 2033 Chinese outbound by value could be “double the size” of the United States.

The WTM Global Travel Report, in association with Tourism Economics, anticipates that the growth in the value of outbound travel from China between 2024 and 2033 will be 131%, by far the largest increase for any major market.
“There is potential for China to become double the size of the United States as a source market in terms of spending,” the report claims.

The number of Chinese households earning enough to be able to afford to travel will “roughly double” by 2033, with an additional 60m-plus households in the market.

Elsewhere, Indonesia and India will also see significantly more households able to afford to travel over the next decade.

For 2023, APAC tourism is still lagging behind 2019 levels. Overall, the region will welcome 149m leisure arrivals this year, 30% fewer than 2019 levels volumes. In terms of value, the region as a whole will end the year at only 68% of 2019’s return.


By country, China’s inbound leisure is only 60% recovered by value, with other big markets also behind – Thailand and Japan are at 57% of 2019. India is the region’s strongest performer and is only 6% shy of matching 2019.

Domestic tourism is proving more resilient. China and Japan, again, are the only countries in the region’s top ten underperforming 2019 levels, but the gap is closer, with China at 93% and Japan at 82%. Australia tops the regional charts for domestic with 2023’s value coming in a 124% of 2019.

APAC’s tourism market will continue to improve into 2024, although the picture is mixed. China will end the year slightly ahead in value, as will India and Australia. Thailand and Japan will still not have got back to 2019 levels.

In contrast, domestic travel in 2024 will be stronger than 2019 for almost all countries in the region. Many travelers “substituted” domestic trips for international ones during the pandemic and this trend is now established, despite the lifting of restrictions. Japan is the only exception, “reflective of the historical downward trend in domestic leisure and domestic travel demand more generally within Japan”.

Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director, World Travel Market London, said: “The WTM Global Travel Report proves essential reading for anyone in the industry wanting a first glimpse of future opportunity. The global perspective on how regions and countries are faring after the pandemic, and the prospects for next year and the longer-term are not to be missed.

“APAC is a critical driver of the world’s inbound, outbound and domestic tourism sectors, and the growth profile for China and other countries in the region is extremely positive news for us all.