While travel from China is still a long way behind pre-pandemic levels, despite the relaxing of travel restrictions by the country’s authorities, Abu Dhabi is seeing a faster rebound than many closer to home destinations.

Data published this week revealed that, compared to the same period last year, overall outbound international flight bookings from China jumped by 192% from December 26 to January 3, the week that followed the relaxation of restrictions.

The most popular destinations for travellers going on return trips originating in China are Macau, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt.

Bookings to Abu Dhabi were 51% behind 2019, data from travel research company ForwardKeys showed. For Dubai, bookings were 83% behind 2019, but for destinations overall they are on average 85% behind 2019 levels.

The data also showed the pent-up demand for the upcoming Chinese New Year, with 67% of travel booked to take place during that period (around 22nd January).

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, commented: “Although the Chinese New Year is likely to see international travel rebound for the first time in three years, we will need to wait longer before we see a resurgence in Chinese tourists exploring the globe.”

Ponti said international flight capacity from China is currently only at 10% of 2019 levels. Ticket prices remain high, with fares on average 160% higher than in 2019; however, there has been a downward price trend since June as quarantine durations began to reduce.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)