Online searches for flights to China soar after Beijing slashes Covid-19 testing, quarantine requirements, Trip.com says
- Searches for flights to China from the US soared 136 per cent over the weekend between November 11 and 13
- The latest policy announcements suggest that Beijing is paving the way for a gradual reopening, HSBC economist says
Searches for flights to China from the US soared 136 per cent over the weekend between November 11 and 13 compared to the same period the week before, leading to increases seen elsewhere, according to data released on Monday by the company formerly known as Ctrip.
Searches for flights from Australia also rose by 116 per cent over this period, Trip.com said, followed by a 102 per cent increase in inquiries in Japan.
China announced major changes to its strict Covid-19 measures for inbound travellers on Friday. It reduced quarantine on arrival from seven days to five and ended the practice of cancelling international flights if too many passengers from previous flights tested positive on arrival, a major barrier to visiting the country.
Travellers will now be allowed to enter the country after showing just one negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 48 hours of boarding. The cycle threshold for a negative PCR test will also be dropped from 40 to 35.
However, the three days of home health monitoring that follows has been changed to a stricter home quarantine, meaning close contacts will no longer be allowed to leave the home during this period.
China’s reopening will be “gradual and delicate” and will involve a lot of preparation, HSBC’s Liu said. The country will see a gradual, further relaxation of Covid-19 policies in the first half of next year, helping to stabilise its housing market and support a recovery in consumption, she said.
China’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, which is chaired by President Xi Jinping, last Thursday emphasised that it will “firmly implement the general policy of dynamic zero [Covid]”.
“We expected that the zero-Covid direction will not be reversed in the short term, but along with optimised policies, it will gradually have less impact on individuals’ normal lives and travel. Thus, confidence in travel will recover,” said Wei Hongmei, an analyst with Dongguan Securities.
The overall number of flights to China booked on Trip.com rose 27 per cent from last Friday to Sunday, compared with the same period the week before. Flights booked from Hong Kong rose 37 per cent and from US and Japan by 35 per cent.
Searches for outbound tickets also rose in this period, jumping by 46 per cent and led by Japan, Thailand and the US.