China’s online travel platforms have seen an uptick in transportation and hotel reservations as the Covid-19 epidemic shows signs of leveling off in the country.

Why it matters: Travel-oriented platforms have been among the worst-hit during the outbreak and spread of the current novel coronavirus. But with a significant drop in the number of new cases over the past week, there are signs that people are looking to return to normal after the month-long lockdown. 

  • A return to normal was also reflected in consumption preferences for Chinese online shoppers, who are shifting spending back to bestselling categories like snacks and cosmetics instead of protective gear.
  • However, experts believe over-optimism could be dangerous.
  • During last year’s Spring Festival holiday, China recorded a total of 415 million tourist trips and grossed RMB 513.9 billion ($76 billion) in tourism revenue, an increase of 7.6% and 8.2% year on year, respectively.

Details: Data from top online travel platforms saw orders for hotel and transportation tickets start to rebound last week after hitting a bottom in mid-February. 

  • Around 80% of hotels have reopened in most provinces, according to online travel site Trip.com. The hotel reopening rate in eastern Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, southern Guangxi region as well as central Hunan and northern Shanxi provinces reached 95%.
  • Data from Alibaba’s travel app Feizhu, also known as Fliggy, showed that air tickets jumped 70% and train ticket orders surged 40% as of Tuesday compared with a week ago period.
  • Fliggy said that travel demand is on the rise because the people are resuming work and returning from their hometowns.
  • Tourists remain cautious in making travel plans, however. Online searches for tourist site tickets rose slightly, but order growth remained flat, the data showed.
  • Pent-up travel demand is high among Chinese travelers. Searches on online travel platform Elong on Feb. 23 for tickets during China’s Tomb-Sweeping Day on April 4 soared 138% while for Labor Day on May 1, queries jumped 84% compared with a week ago.

Context: Along with domestic tech giants, Chinese online travel platforms have ramped up their efforts in battling the epidemic.

  • Chinese online travel platforms including Trip.com, Fliggy, Qunar, and Mafengwo have waived cancellation fees for trips to the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.

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