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China—a case study in post-COVID travel? | CHINA CONNECT

Travel experts and insiders tell how they reacted to the pandemic in China and how the industry adapted as the country returned to (relative) normal.

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China Connect is the leading European organization that connects the Chinese internet and China based digital marketing experts with their pairs across Europe through online and offline events, training, and consulting. The ReStart Live Series launched this Spring as the pandemic raged, and is hosted by Laure de Carayon, founder & CEO of China Connect.

In this episode, Laure speaks with Anita Mendiratta, special advisor to CNN and the UNWTO, Edward Bell, General Manager Brands/Insights/Marketing at Cathay Pacific, and Mark Wong, Senior VP APAC at Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

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The world has stopped traveling—an obvious crisis for the global tourism industry. But, as restrictions now start to be easing in some places, nine months after the beginning of the pandemic, questions now revolve around how the post-coronavirus travel industry will look.

Anita Mediratta, a global tourism expert, notes that the pandemic has not eradicated the industry’s entire customer base. Domestic travel has resumed, at least in China, and the industry has shifted focus to enabling this kind of travel.

“The country has suffered 1.4 billion in losses of travel, but it also has been the first country to see the opportunity to ease up,” she said. “Domestic travel in China is expected to grow 60% this year compared to 47% last year. Labor days saw 90 million people travelling domestically. ”

However, realigning a trillion dollar industry’s business strategy to face this reality, including changing marketing and promotions, is no easy feat. Edward Bell has been on the frontline of this transformation at one of Asia’s largest carriers, Cathay Pacific. He spoke about some of the lessons from the experience, which are likely to trickle down into other markets around the world.

“Our takeaways from the situation is that we need to focus on three things: First, who to target—our funds diminished so we need to focus on the right customer; secondly, we need to build up in terms of safety and reassurance; then, we have to think about what we can do to revive this travel passion.”

From the time when the outbreak began in January, several stages of the pandemic can already be identified in China. Mark Wong, who works in the hotel industry, examined how the hospitality world reacted when the pandemic was severe, stable, in remission, and in the current market recovery phase. Besides echoing the potential of domestic travel, Wong proposed that COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the type of products his industry will focus on in the future.

“Where we stand at Small Hotels of the World, we feel that even though we are a small group, we can deliver very big travel experiences,” he said. “We feel that we could cater to the next normal, the normal criteria people are looking for. They are not looking for congested cities but more remote areas, more standalone types of villages where they don’t have to be exposed to that mass, crowded areas. I think we fit right into that niche of delivering those new criteria.”

Watch the full episode below.

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