5 Travel Trends in China to Watch Out for in 2023

5 Travel Trends in China to Watch Out for in 2023

The Year of the Water Rabbit will likely see more tourism in rural areas, a sustained interest in the great outdoors, and more — hop to it!

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Sammi Sowerby RADII Tatler
6:07 PM HKT, Fri January 6, 2023 3 mins read

If there’s one thing Chinese citizens have gotten good at in 2022, it’s the art of armchair travel. Barred in their homes for the best part of the year due to strict Covid-19 regulations, netizens in China have been paying virtual visits to the zoo, galloping across Europe on horseback, and cheering on a beloved retiree and rubber tramp on her solo road trips.

While we don’t mean to get ahead of ourselves, the proof is in the pudding: Chinese citizens have been splurging on flights ever since China Central Television (CCTV) confirmed that the country would be relaxing its Covid-19 rules on December 7.

And on December 26, the Chinese government presented the world with a belated Christmas gift: confirmation that inbound travelers would be exempt from quarantine from January 8, 2023 onwards.

An air of optimism pervades RADII’s round-up of travel predictions for the year 2023:

1. Hopping into the Year of the Rabbit

Sunday, January 22, 2023 marks the start of the Year of the Water Rabbit in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which automatically makes the small, furry mammal China’s ‘mascot of the year.’ Expect rabbit-themed collaborations and experiences across all sectors, including travel and entertainment. For example, we’ve already seen brands like The Walt Disney Company hop to it.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Disney

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit at Tokyo Disneyland. Image via Disney Parks

On December 9, the California-based conglomerate took to Chinese superapp WeChat to announce a slew of projects — from a new short film to special filters on Chinese photo editing apps MeituPic and BeautyCam — revolving around Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Older than Mickey Mouse, who came to life in 1928, Oswald first appeared on screen in 1927, and bears striking similarities to his more successful descendent, but 2023 is the character’s turn to shine! The WeChat announcement indicated that Oswald would appear more this year at Disney theme parks and resorts.

2. Boom in Domestic Travel

Now that China has done away with quarantine, will Chinese citizens scramble to get out of the country, or will they warily stick close to home?

According to Cynthia Corona, a travel-focused content creator based in Shanghai, it’s not a question of one or the other, but both: “I think local travel will always remain, as not everyone can afford the current prices,” said the Mexican youth in a chat with RADII.

Sure enough, sources such as Trip.com have warned of skyrocketing airfare in the post-pandemic world; the rising cost of jet fuel, flight and route cancellations, and staffing shortages are some reasons for this.

Cash-strapped Chinese youth, not to mention fresh graduates, who have had a rocky time getting hired in 2022, are likely to travel only as far as their bank accounts can take them, but that’s one of the best parts about being in China — the world’s third largest country by total land area is a limitless source of adventure.

Corona’s own travels in China have taken her from the Detian Transnational Waterfalls at the Sino-Vietnamese border to the temperate highlands of Yunnan, two touristic attractions that she believes will do exceptionally well next year.

“[2023] will be more about ‘unseen areas,’ like the Detian Waterfalls, which not a lot of people had heard of until last year,” opined Corona.

3. Family Reunions

Compared to 2022, China will see more foreign tourism next year — that’s a given. But let’s not forget members of the Chinese diaspora and expatriates who have been unable to return home for years. Pack those tissues, for 2023 will be a year for teary-eyed reunions.

Mark our words: Next year could also be a bumper year for My China Roots, a company specializing in Chinese ancestry research and travel. As Covid-19 has taught us, few things in life are more important than connections, and as seen on My China Roots’s excellent track record, the company has helped a Jamaican man track down his long-lost Chinese uncle, and Chinese-Brazilian millennial discover her roots.

4. The Great Outdoors

Glamping Xiaohongshu

Chinese youth glamping (complete with a movie screen). Image via Xiaohongshu

After being cooped up indoors during Covid-19 lockdowns, it’s no wonder everyone is eager to be out under the open skies. Data from the National Park Service speaks for Americans, but Chinese nationals clearly feel the same, as evidenced by the sudden popularity of camping (or glamping), road trips, and gorpcore apparel in the country.

This appetite for the great outdoors is likely to carry over to next year, especially since China no longer requires negative Covid tests and health codes for cross-region travel!

5. Continued Rise of Rural Tourism

Going hand in hand with the aforementioned trend, rural tourism will take on new heights in China in 2023. Not only are netizens charmed by rural folk, from a disabled carpenter with a can-do attitude to a rapper mom with slick beats, but the Chinese government is also heavily invested in its long-term rural revitalization strategy.

WildChina, which was founded as a tailored travel provider in 2000 before expanding into other sectors such as education and corporate services, has played its part in drawing tourists to the far-flung corners of China.

“Remember, we were one of the first organizations to make authentic experiences of China available to foreign travelers,” commented Haena Seongsin Kim, director of WildChina Education.

Earlier this year, the company even transformed a derelict traditional folk home into a cafe and art space called WildChina Studio in East China’s Zhejiang province, allowing travelers and locals to cross paths in a quaint community space.

Cover image designed by Zhuohan Shao

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