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China’s international demand slow to gain momentum – part one: Asian carriers target other markets

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A slower-than-expected rebound in travel from mainland China is inhibiting the full recovery of many airlines in the Asia-Pacific region, although it is also prompting them to focus more heavily on booming markets, such as India.

China was the leading source of tourists for several Asia-Pacific countries before 2019, making it a key part of airline international networks. So its cautious approach to reopening borders after the COVID-19 pandemic was a major reason why the Asia-Pacific airline industry lagged the recovery seen in other regions.

Most of China’s pandemic-era restrictions were lifted in Apr-2023, raising optimism for a rapid return of traffic flows. But after an initial surge, the growth in demand for international travel from China has lost some of its momentum, according to airline executives.

This meant Chinese demand recovery was a major theme at two recent airline gatherings – the CAPA - Centre for Aviation Asia Aviation Summit in Kuala Lumpur 2-3-Nov-2023, and the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines annual meeting in Singapore 9-10-Nov-2023.

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