China's reopening is 'final piece' needed for global tourism's recovery: UNWTO chief



The resumption of Chinese domestic tourism is the final step for global tourism to recover from the pandemic, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

"The significance of China to global tourism is widely recognized and appreciated," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili told CGTN in a written interview, quoting that China was the world's biggest tourism source market in 2019 and Chinese tourists spent a collective $255 billion on international travel in the same year.

At the beginning of this year, the country optimized the travel requirement on international flights. Then it recorded a surge in ticket bookings during the Spring Festival holiday.

Calling it the "final piece" needed for tourism's recovery, Pololikashvili is positive that the lifting of China's travel restrictions would provide an extra boost of confidence in travel and help revive the industry.

"China has consistently shown its support for tourism since the start of the pandemic," noted Pololikashvili, citing strengthened financial support from the Chinese government to affected enterprises in May 2021.

"Because of this practical and economic support for tourism businesses and workers, the sector is now ready to welcome visitors back," Pololikashvili said, as he saw for himself when visited Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province in February.

Chinese Tourism Academy cited data during the Spring Festival that the tourism market is shifting to rural destinations in recent years as people look for low population density tourism spots.

"We see strong interest in authentic experiences and exploring lesser-known places," Pololikashvili said, forecasting that the destinations with gastronomy, culture and rural elements are well-placed to benefit from the return of Chinese tourists.

China's reopening will be felt far beyond the tourism sector, he stressed, adding that the airline companies are also getting a boost from China's comeback.

The global airline industry is expected to tip into profitability in 2023 with expected revenue of $779 billion, according to International Air Transport Association data.