Report: China's new Covid wave to derail tourism this year

A patient is turned away from the emergency room due to full capacity at the Baoding No. 2 Central Hospital in Zhuozhou city, December 21, 2022. [AP Photo]

Global inflation, residual effects of Russia-Ukraine war and China’s new Covid-19 wave have been cited in a forecast report as some of the issues that will affect tourism this year.

The global report predicts a drop in tourist numbers from China to other nations due to the implementation of zero Covid policy in the country.

The Tourism Outlook 2023 report by Economic Intelligence, a global platform that provides insights on economic and political developments, forecasts that tourism numbers will resume to possible pre-Covid period in 2024 and not this year as earlier predicted.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that led to political instability, global inflation and economic slowdown as well as China’s strict zero Covid strategy have dampened those expectations.

The report notes that while the war in Ukraine has delayed the tourism recovery, an even bigger factor has been China’s zero Covid policy.

“China accounted for around one-tenth of the world’s tourism departures before Covid, but we now expect its borders to remain largely locked until at least mid-2023,” the report reads.

"There is even a risk that the zero-covid policy could be extended if the pandemic continues to be a threat.”

However, if all goes to plan, the report says, authorities will gradually take a less strict stance towards the virus, easing (but not lifting) mandatory quarantine measures and inbound travel controls.

“In this scenario, we expect the number of outbound travellers from China to more than double in 2023, to around 59 million.

"Even so, that would be only a little more than a third of the 155 million departures in 2019, when China was the world’s biggest source of tourists,” the report says.

This reduced demand, it adds, is primarily affecting tourists’ destinations in Asia, including Thailand and Hong Kong.

“But the dampening effect will also be felt in Europe, the US and elsewhere,” it reads.

China is one of Kenya’s leading sources of tourists in the Asian market, second after India.

Kenya received 31,610 visitors in 2021 from China. More than half of these, 52.4 per cent, are documented to have visited the country on holiday and the rest on business.

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