Global hospitality brand Hilton Hotels and Resorts has announced plans to open 730 new properties in China over the next decade, as the country’s tourism industry finally begins to show signs of growth post-pandemic.
The Covid outbreak in 2020 saw the tourism industry crash worldwide, but with three years of frequent lockdowns, China was particularly hard hit. The country saw an 88% drop in international arrivals in 2020, according to figures collected by GlobalData. The drop in tourism across China meant Hilton was forced to temporarily close 150 of its hotels in the country between February and May 2020.
The industry continued to struggle with further year-on-year declines of 17% and 43% in 2021 and 2022, respectively. This saw the country see arrivals plummet from an all-time high of 65.7 million in 2019 to just 3.7 million in 2022.
However, GlobalData’s Head of Travel & Tourism Research Nicholas Wyatt believes things are once again looking promising for China’s tourism industry: “The industry’s recovery is well underway following the country’s reopening, and we predict that by the end of 2024 international arrivals will slightly exceed pre-pandemic levels.”
“China enjoys strong interest among international travellers with its rich history, fascinating cultural heritage and world-famous gastronomy scene serving as strong pull factors. This, coupled with continued strong investment in leisure attractions, lodging, and transport infrastructure puts China in a strong position to successfully push its touristic offering in the coming years.”
Hilton is capitalizing on these hopes of a bright future for China's tourism industry, with Clarence Tan, Senior Vice President of Development in Asia-Pacific, announcing in an interview on Sunday the plan to open another 730 properties. The hotels will open over a ten-year period and will be in addition to the 597 Chinese properties Hilton's website currently lists.
According to Tan, these ambitious plans are not only attributable to improvements in international tourism but domestic travel too, significant after the lockdowns quashed internal travel. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, he explained that Hilton had seen recent success thanks to “the rise in domestic income and the rising middle-class group”.
The recovery of Chinese tourism offers hope more widely, as hiring opportunities within Hilton have struggled to recover. While there have been some periods of apparent improvement, the company has struggled to return to pre-pandemic hiring numbers after the significant downturn in March 2020.
The new plans will more than double the current number of Hilton properties in China, boosting employment possibilities at the company over the next decade.
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