Trip.com Group CEO says revival of domestic travel first step to industry recovery
Global Business
05:02

The travel and tourism industry, one of the global growth engines, is bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic's damage. To revive the industry, recovery of domestic travel businesses should be the first step, Jane Sun, Trip.com Group CEO shared with CGTN.

Trip.com Group is the largest online travel agency in China and one of the largest travel service providers in the world.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel and tourism sector accounts for 10 percent of total jobs and GDP globally. That's an estimated 8.8 trillion U.S. dollars annually. And the growth of the industry has been hindered by the pandemic.

Trip.com Group enjoyed surging growth in 2019 but projected a sharp decline of up to 50 percent for its revenue in the first quarter of this year due to the pandemic. "There are tens of millions of cancellations during the Chinese New Year and we would see any travel activity after the holidays," said its latest earnings call.

"In the first quarter, January was very strong, but February and March were almost zero. When we look back, we experienced the darkest moment of the travel industry," Sun recalled.

There are some estimates that the travel and tourism industry won't bounce back from the pandemic until 2023. But Sun expressed her belief in the long-term prospects of tourism.

"In the short term, people will naturally have concerns about safety for travel. But in the long run, the impact of the epidemic on travel will be very small. I'm positive that eventually, the whole world will be able to fall out from this crisis mode, moving to a positive zone," she told CGTN. 

Jane Sun (R), Trip.com Group CEO, speaks to CGTN Global Business program. /CGTN

Jane Sun (R), Trip.com Group CEO, speaks to CGTN Global Business program. /CGTN

 Revive the tourism sector methodically

Official data shows that China's tourism sector achieved 6.63 trillion yuan of revenue last year, increasing 11 percent compared to a year before, while domestic tourism totaled 5.72 trillion yuan, up 11.7 percent year on year.

To revive the industry, Sun highlighted the importance of domestic travel rebound by saying "we should do it step by step methodically. We need to recover the domestic travel industry as our first step." 

With cities across China getting back to normal, some travel restrictions have been loosened and some tourist attractions have reopened. And given that a couple of holidays, including the Qingming Festival and a four-day May Day Holiday, are coming up, Sun is positive on the rebound of domestic travel in the second quarter, particularly from one-day and suburban tours.

"We've already seen the business volume recovering from zero to something … People will start to travel within the same city first, and then one-day tour next, and then a short-term tour," she estimated.

And Sun told CGTN that Trip.com has launched a tourism revival V (victory) Plan, contributing over one billion yuan of resources to work with local destinations, travel bureaus, industry partners and other organizations to accelerate recovery in China.

She explained that incentives, such as well-discounted products, may help increase consumers' confidence. "Once customers are in the travel destinations, then the service element is very important," she added.

"You can offer free transportation, get customers from the high speed railway, bring them to the travel destinations and make sure there are no traffic jams … [You should] make sure the service level is high. Those are very good to impress the consumers so that they can come back again," Sun detailed.

After kick-starting domestic travel in China, she said that the next step is to work with other countries thought to have a handle on the virus, such as Singapore, to discuss easing present travel restrictions. 

"As the second step, I think it's important for these countries to work together to encourage the inter-exchange within nations so that we can send customers over there … Asia probably can kick the lead in among the rest of the world to recover," she mentioned.

"Demand is there and buying power is there, as long as we smartly create a product that is suitable for the consumers, people will be encouraged to travel," Sun said.

(CGTN's Cheng Lei also contributed to the story.)