China was the first global market that was impacted by COVID-19, and travel both to and from China started declining beginning in mid-January. ADARA analyzed anonymized behavior of travelers on air and hotel searches and bookings for 2020 year-to-date, and has found that there are promising signs for a rebound in flights within China and to China from international origins that align with the trajectory of the pandemic.
Travel to China
For this analysis travel to China is referring to both domestic China origin travel (example: Beijing to Harbin) and international origin travel (example: Sydney to Shanghai) with China as the destination. The number of unique searchers (both domestic and inbound international) searching for flights to China declined during three weeks in February to only one third the number of searchers that we saw in early January. In the past two weeks ADARA has seen an uptick in the number of searchers. Unique searchers were up +29% for the week of March 8 compared to the week of March 1st.
The number of total searches follows a similar pattern. The total number of searches for flights to China (both domestic and international inbound) is currently 55% of the volume of searches seen the week of January 5th, up from a low of 34% in mid-February. The average number of searches per searcher has increased in the past month, with an average of 5-6 searches per unique searcher.
Those who have searched for flights to China (domestic and inbound international) in the past several weeks are looking for flights with shorter booking windows. 58% of flights searched for were within a 0-15 day advanced booking window vs. only 38% of flights in early January. In addition, the percentage of flights searched for business travel has almost doubled since pre-COVID 19 levels (38% vs. 20% in early January). As the Chinese government ramps up its efforts to boost the economy, these shorter booking windows and increased flight intent for business travel is not surprising.
Total bookings to China are also rebounding, but at a slower pace. They are currently at about 30% of the level of flights that were booked to China in early January. Based on the February 2020 data, time from initial flight search to booking date is an average of 13 days. ADARA will continue to monitor whether flight bookings to China will catch up to the trends we see in increased searches for flights to China.
Travel From China
Travel from China, for this analysis, refers to travel with origin in China and with an international destination such as travel from Beijing to London. Flight bookings from travelers in China outbound to international destinations have yet to post any genuine rebound either in searches or bookings. ADARA would expect this based on the travel bans that are still in place.