This summer, new local cases of the COVID-19 virus that sporadically occurred in some provinces across China have dampened the growth of the domestic travel market. Yet, pre-sale tourism marketing has been booming and helped to stabilize the confidence of both consumers and retailers to continue traveling.
The high cost performance and long period of validity of pre-sale tourism products can be redeemed within an average of five months, and this has encouraged more consumers to purchase them ahead of time and redeem at a later date.
Between March 2020 and this month, pre-sale tourism products offered by Trip.com Group, China's largest online travel agency, usually carry price tags with 50 percent off on average. Some products sell at prices discounted by 90 percent.
"Pre-sale has been a trend that is accepted by consumers since the outbreak of the pandemic last year," said Sun Bo, chief marketing officer of Trip.com Group. "This year, the contagion continued to occur in some cities dispersedly, and some cross-provincial travel activities were suspended due to virus prevention measures."
"Besides pre-sale promotions during livestreaming sessions, we've also launched a one-month offer between August and September to further promote the presale of tourism products," Sun added.
In the first 15 days of August, China operated 7,506 domestic flights. That figure was down 39 percent over the latter half of July, and the number dropped 35 percent year-on-year, according to data compiled by VariFlight, a China-based civil aviation data service provider, and Trip.com.
In the first half of August, the average daily passenger load factor of domestic flights was 55.9 percent. In the same period, the average price of tax-exclusive domestic flight tickets stood at 869 yuan ($133.7). This is 140 percent higher than the average price recorded during the same period last year and lower than that of 2019, according to Trip.com.
On average, buying a tourism product ahead of schedule can help travelers save 723 yuan. Hotel bookings in particular can help travelers save 1,088 yuan on average. Female consumers tend to buy pre-sale products more often than men. Between March and August this year, the number of people who bought pre-sale products and redeemed them within a month of purchase climbed 14 percent year-on-year, Trip.com found.
Meanwhile, a large number of domestic destinations have sensed the potential business growth opportunities of pre-sale offers. In April last year, Huzhou, Zhejiang province, cooperated with Trip.com to net sales revenue of over 20 million yuan during an hour-long livestreaming session by pre-selling tourism products.
In September last year, Macao held a livestreaming session on Trip.com and achieved revenue of over 65 million yuan by pre-selling tourism products. Macao also topped a list of cities this year and saw the highest annual sales growth in the pre-sale of tourism products, according to Trip.com.
Besides booking hotels in advance to redeem at a later time, Chinese travelers also booked admission tickets and restaurants vouchers ahead of time. Between March and August, pre-sale revenue of those two categories on Trip.com jumped 72 percent year-on-year. Specifically, the number of admission ticket orders surged 116 percent year-on-year.
Holding livestreaming sessions has helped tourism retailers increase their exposures. More operators have joined in the promotions, and the number of available pre-sale tourism products online also increased in the past year.
"Large-scale pre-sale events can help people on both the supply and demand sides to stabilize their confidence, and that can play a positive role in helping promote the further recovery of the tourism market," said Shen Jiani, a senior researcher at Trip.com's research institute.
"Most discounted pre-sale tourism products can be canceled any time and travelers can get a full refund. Thus, consumers will feel at ease in purchasing and form a habit of buying tourism products in advance," Shen said.