Fosun Tourism Group has had a busy year since the collapse of Thomas Cook. James Chapple speaks to chairman, executive director and chief executive Jim Qian to find out what’s next
After nine months of Zoom meetings, there’s something reassuringly “normal” about just calling someone up for a chat – even if it is being routed 6,000 miles to a car somewhere near Shanghai.
Jim Qian is heading home from one of a growing number of Chinese holiday hotspots developed by Fosun Tourism Group; he greets me cheerily after his latest “foliday” – that’s a “Fosun holiday” to me and you, one that combines work and leisure at a resort or “foliday town” within easy reach of major population centres.
He one day hopes to see the word in the Oxford English Dictionary, attributed – he says with a self-deprecating chuckle – to “some Chinese guy”. It would be easy to dismiss this quip as small talk; I feel it’s anything but.
It’s hard not to envisage a future where China doesn’t play an increasingly significant role in every aspect of life in Europe, not least travel. For decades, China was closed. But the reforms of the 1980s and emergence over the past 20 years of a prosperous, aspirational middle-class has broadened the country’s horizons.
Pre-Covid, more than 140 million Chinese people were travelling overseas each year, Qian tells me. Yet this is still only a fraction of its 1.4 billion population.
European families, Qian claims, “travel” about seven times a year; in China, it is closer to three times. But with incomes rising rapidly, Qian knows China will quickly catch up with Europe. He believes lockdown has whetted Chinese peoples’ appetite for international travel, and sharpened the country’s focus on holidaying closer to home too, with China’s borders still firmly shut due to the pandemic.