Removal of COVID-indicating marker on itinerary spurs surge in travel bookings
The domestic tourism market is hoping for a robust recovery as authorities release more supportive policies and measures to help the market overcome the current pressures.
On Wednesday, the nation removed the cautionary asterisks marking all travel codes to alleviate restrictions on domestic travel, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The cancellation is aimed at improving the efficiency of the nation's COVID-19 epidemic control and prevention work, and boosting socioeconomic recovery, the ministry said. Previously, travel codes carried an asterisk that indicated when a person had visited a city or prefecture with a medium or high risk of infection in the past 14 days, thus restricting their travel across the country.
The asterisks, however, do not indicate a person's health status, and were only meant to serve as a warning to people about medium and high-risk areas that they should avoid, the ministry claimed.
Nevertheless, there had been reports of communities treating people coming from cities marked by an asterisk, regardless of whether these people had actually been to medium and high-risk areas and regardless of whether they had tested negative for the virus, and making them endure excessive isolation requirements.
The removal soon spurred a surge in both online searches and travel bookings by people who were previously worrying about inconvenience or possible quarantine caused by an asterisk on their travel codes.
The latest figures by Qunar, an online travel agency, show that in only half an hour after the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's announcement was published online, page views for international flights on its platform doubled, reaching a peak over the past two years.
Searches for domestic flights rose by 60 percent in 30 minutes after the news, and searches for domestic hotels doubled in the same period.
As of 5 pm Wednesday, domestic flight bookings rose by 30 percent from the same period the day before. From 3 pm to 5 pm Wednesday, bookings for flights departing Beijing rose by 135 percent compared to the same period of the previous day. Flight bookings departing Shanghai grew by 100 percent in the same two hours, according to Qunar.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said on Wednesday that it will organize a monthlong campaign to assist tourism companies with administrative services.
Ma Li, deputy director of the ministry's industry development department, said at a news conference that with sporadic outbreaks under control, the tourism market has shown a good momentum of recovery since earlier in June, while cultural and tourism businesses still need continuous help from the government as they face difficulties running their businesses and stabilizing employment.
He said the ministry will improve cooperation with banks and banking supervision commissions to channel more effective financial support to tourism operators. More tourism promotion plans will be carried out nationwide to motivate people's passion for travel and consumption.
The nation also adjusted the quarantine policies for international travelers and close contacts of confirmed cases on Tuesday, which shortened the centralized quarantine period from 14 days to seven days following the latest COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines by the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism.
Tuniu, another online travel agency, said that the adjusted policy will benefit the recovery of the nation's inbound tourism, as well as the recovery of international airlines.
It said that the new policy will help raise people's travel aspirations and boost the market's confidence. "In the short term, it will be beneficial to the summer holiday tourism market," it said.