The long-awaited return of Chinese tourists will boost the strong recovery in world tourism after “two years of hell” due to Covid-19, said industry players gathered this week in Doha.

As part of the Qatar Economic Forum, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and hotel magnates welcomed the strong recovery in the sector, while stressing the importance of the Asian country’s clientele.

“The wanderlust has never been greater and the industry is struggling to meet that demand,” said David Calhoun, CEO of Boeing, who said he was overwhelmed with plane orders.

If the summer season in the northern hemisphere should allow air traffic to return to its pre-pandemic level, carriers are also counting on Chinese passengers, freed from the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, to fill their coffers.

Qatar Airways flights from China are “absolutely full”, rejoiced the boss of the Gulf company, Akbar al-Baker.

“Not only are they paying the fares imposed due to the lack of available capacity, but they are spending more money at our duty-free shops at the (Doha) airport than any other national,” he said. added.

For the American-Thai billionaire, William Ellwood Heinecke, owner of the Minor International hotel group, the boom in Chinese demand should be fully felt in the second half.

“We are definitely on the rebound, but the most important thing is that we haven’t seen China come back yet,” he said, pointing out that the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand in the first quarter was still 85% lower than 2019.

Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, who notably owns Air Asia, hopes that the low-cost airline’s 250 aircraft, grounded during the health crisis, can be returned to service by the month of august.

“We are in a strange situation: yesterday we were fighting for our survival, today we are restarting 200 planes, which is a colossal job,” he noted.

Industry players have seen the market shift, with leisure travel taking over business travel, which traditionally accounted for two-thirds of demand.

“This distribution will probably be reversed. We are already at 55% for leisure and 45% for business”, assured Sébastien Bazin, CEO of the Accor hotel group, the largest in Europe, attributing this trend in particular. to remote work.

Industry representatives also defended the higher prices in the market, citing the losses accumulated during the Covid-19.

“We’ve been through two hellish years,” Bazin recalled, noting that deluxe room rates are currently 33-35% higher than in 2019, while standard rooms are 10-12% more expensive. .

The hospitality industry is also facing growing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, he said.

Institutions that relied on low interest rates, cheap labor and low energy prices must rethink their model, added Mr. Heinecke.

As for plane tickets, they are now at a “reasonable price”, said Malaysian Tony Fernandes.

26/05/2023 16:50:21 –         Doha (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP