Tourism major TUI commences travel business in China, urges EU to lift restrictions

Lugu lake China

German firm TUI AG, the world’s largest tourism group, has restarted its travel business in China, offering trips and flights within the country to local customers.

The business is resuming after the government lifted a three-month sales ban, and operations will gradually be expanded amid a backlog of demand by Chinese customers, Chief Executive Officer Fritz Joussen said.

Besides offering holiday packages in China, TUI has urged the European Union (EU) to lift travel restrictions in place to curb the coronavirus.

The resumption of business in China, three months after TUI halted operations there, is focused on short breaks in the mountains and beach resorts. The other packages include trips in the vicinity of big cities.

Joussen said tourism in Europe needs a “clear perspective,” and that European Union nations should develop timetables for flights within the region. Joussen urged the EU to put in place a concept that allows for the resumption of holiday travel within the bloc, where border restrictions have been in place since March.

“The EU and its member states should develop a timetable for resuming travel within Europe and make holidays possible in 2020,” he said, citing Greece, Cyprus, Spanish islands, Austria and Bulgaria which have made progress toward reopening resorts.

TUI’s online traffic is at 90% of last year’s level, signaling there’s high demand, the CEO said. Customers shouldn’t be limited to trips at home and countries that made good progress in the battle against the virus could be reopened for tourism, he said. TUI had earlier secured a €1.8bn state loan from the German government, to tackle the burgeoning crisis.

“Our offices in Peking and Shanghai were open during the crisis but were not allowed to sell holiday packages,” TUI Chief Executive Fritz Joussen said in a statement.

“We now see a significant backlog of demand for holidays. TUI China will in the coming weeks broaden its offers step by step.”

The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets once the virus, which has infected 3.44 million people and killed 243,00 worldwide, is under control and curbs on movement ease.

Global travel has been disrupted by the coronavirus crisis and airlines are expected to burn through as much as $61 billion in the second quarter, according to the International Air Transport Association.