The Return of Chinese Travel After Three Years in Lockdown: What This Means for International OOH Advertisers 

Chinese citizens, the largest tourism population, are now free to travel internationally after three years of strict “zero Covid” policies.

Talon International explains what this means for OOH advertisers

After three long years of restrictions, Chinese tourists are now free to travel. Pre-pandemic, Chinese tourists spent $255 billion, making them the World’s biggest spenders. Now they can travel internationally, what does this mean for the tourism industry and advertisers looking to reach them on their journeys?


In December 2022, China announced it was abandoning its zero Covid strategy. The next day, recorded a +254% increase in mainland China’s outbound flight bookings (compared to the previous day). Flights bound for Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand led the surge, making them the top five destinations following the change.

Three of these airports were announced as the world’s top 10 airports of 2023, with Singapore Changi regaining its spot at number one. A light-filled, green haven that brands itself as its own “destination” the airport provides great OOH and DOOH opportunities for brands looking to reach travellers in their favourite airport. 

A staggering 308 million tourism trips were made in the first six days of the Chinese New Year, with Shanghai’s Plaza 66 mall seeing long queues form outside luxury stores, generating over $55 billion in revenue. Their understandable desire to travel and celebrate their freedom plays a key role in this. 

2023 is set to be a big year for Chinese travel, with 60% of Chinese tourists planning to travel outside of mainland China. A survey revealed that 40% of respondents plan to travel outbound in the first six months of 2023, the majority within Asia, as well as France and Australia. 42% said they would travel outbound in the summer months of July and August, whilst 32% are planning an autumn Golden Week getaway outside of mainland China. 

The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute estimates 18 million will travel internationally in the first half of the year, followed by 40 million in the second. Luxury shopping is the third main purpose for taking a trip, behind relaxing and experiencing art, culture and history. 

Revenge Spending 

After three years in lockdown, Chinese travellers are ready to “revenge spend” after saving a record $2.6 trillion in 2022.  

KPMG’s “Luxury Redefined” research study found that Chinese consumers can be split into five different personas – luxury newcomers, status reflectors, approval seekers, luxury connoisseurs and new luxury pioneers. Across these personas, Chinese consumers were found to have the confidence to spend and are eager to purchase luxury as a means of social advancement and self-differentiation. Key themes that also emerged were digital transformation, sustainability and the need for experiential retail. 

The return and rise of the Chinese traveller, is placing travel hubs and airport environments back at the heart of clients’ media strategies to influence purchase decisions. Insights such as these from KPMG, can be used to understand exactly what these consumers want to see from brands, such as sustainable initiatives, experiential activations and brand stories. 

Across all the personas, there is a clear desire for interaction with brands. Whether it be through providing strong brand stories, in-store sales activation activities or showcasing trendy items, all of this can be achieved through OOH. 

Reaching Chinese Consumers with OOH 

As highlighted above, there are numerous touchpoints that we can use to help brands to reach their target audience: 

1. In mainland China 

After being stuck indoors, people are eager to get outside and reclaim their lives. This presents an exciting opportunity for brands to capitalise on the large inventory of OOH sites around the country and busy city areas to reach these audiences out of the home. 

Abu Dhabi was one of the first brands emerging to target Chinese audiences after restrictions were lifted. Capitalising on their newfound freedom and desire to experience new things, Abu Dhabi promoted its exciting experiences on some of the largest digital OOH screens in Beijing and Shanghai. 

 2. Airports 

With Chinese airport passengers up +35% in January and set to increase even higher throughout the year, airports are an obvious choice for brands wanting to reach Chinese audiences.  

Although there are classic OOH formats throughout the airports that brands can advertise on, experiential and sustainable initiatives will be key to attract the new personas highlighted by KPMG. It’s time to think big and think outside of the box, capitalising on the excitement of travellers looking to experience new things. 

Kicking off 2023, Johnnie Walker launched their campaign on the most impactful advertising installations on the global airport scene in Spain, Dominican Republic, UK, UAE, India, South Korea and Singapore. The ultra-premium blended whisky used some of the most eye-catching formats to reach the global travellers.  

3. Destination Cities 

Of course, airport passengers must be going somewhere. Whether they are visiting new countries for work or pleasure, there are some incredible OOH sites and activation opportunities across the globe. As travellers are “taking it all in” in these destination cities, brands can make sure that they are seen with effective OOH executions. 

De Beers announced Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as their global ambassador with an exciting 3D activation in the iconic Times Square. The digital OOH execution was unmissable in the iconic hotspot, popular with tourists. 

Upcoming Opportunities 

Looking ahead, Golden Week and the Chinese New Year are peak travel periods for China. Before the Pandemic, domestic tourists splurged some 650 billion yuan ($91 billion) during the 2019 Golden Week – over a quarter more than during the Chinese New Year festival. 

With 32% planning an autumn Golden Week getaway outside of mainland China, there are lots of opportunities for brands to reach travellers as they celebrate the holidays. 

The travel industry is looking optimistic. Brands are increasingly interested in targeting the global traveller and being even more present in premium environments with high dwell times. The customers’ expectations around sustainability and experiences are making the airport space extremely relevant, and some brands are already taking advantage of it.  

Airports have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to renovate and enhance their space, to propose more flexible solutions that are continuously more aligned with customer’s expectations.  For more information, please contact or get in touch with your Talon International representative to discuss OOH opportunities targeting Chinese travellers.