Updated Dec 28, 2022 - World

Chinese travelers rush to book overseas trips as borders reopen

Travelers check in for a flight at the Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, China, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

Travelers check in for a flight at the Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, China, on Dec. 12, 2022. Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

People in China — slammed for years by heavy COVID travel restrictions — are suddenly rushing to book overseas trips before the country's borders reopen early next year.

The big picture: Air travel ticket sales have soared in the immediate days after China loosened quarantine requirements for international travel, paving the way for vacationers to hit the open skies.

Driving the news: Data provided by Trip.com Group shows an uptick in flight bookings out of China.

  • Outbound flight bookings surged by 254% early Tuesday after restrictions were lifted, according to Trip.com data obtained by Axios.
  • The most common choices were short flights: Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea, the data show.
  • Bookings to Singapore soared by 600%, while the other top destinations went up 400%.

Between the lines: Searches for flights from Hong Kong to mainland China also increased 521% from Dec. 19 to Dec. 26, after the restrictions were lifted.

Catch up quick: China announced Monday it would end quarantine requirements for all arriving travelers, including Chinese residents who returned home from outside the country.

  • Scrapping the requirements was the latest move by China to ease its "zero COVID" policy, which shut the country's borders from the rest of the world since the pandemic began.

Yes, but: The elimination of quarantines and testing for travelers means China will have more trouble spotting and containing any new outbreaks.

  • Officials have stopped publishing daily COVID data, but cases are thought to be rising across China.

Zoom out: China is currently grappling with how to handle the return to normal without overwhelming the country's health care system — a problem several countries have had to deal with throughout the pandemic.

  • China loosened some restrictions earlier this month after nationwide protests kicked up in November.
  • But the easing restrictions led to an influx of COVID cases and deaths, according to multiple reports. The World Health Organization said it is "very concerned" about the amount of severe COVID cases in the country, according to AP.

Editor's note: This story was updated with data provided by Trip.com.

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