FILE PHOTO: Visitors wearing face masks are seen at the Temple of Heaven, or Tiantan Park, on the first day of the five-day Labour Day holiday following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Beijing, China May 1, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s domestic tourism revenue is expected to fall by 52% to 2.76 trillion yuan ($394 billion) in 2020, according to a report by the China Tourism Academy, as the industry continues to reel from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The academy, which is affiliated to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said on Monday that it expected the number of domestic tourists to fall by 43% to 3.43 billion this year.

China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, introduced strict lockdowns and measures to curb its spread which are seen to have largely worked, as the country has largely reopened its economy and allowed normal life to resume.

The country’s aviation capacity has snapped back to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels, but the sector is still working hard to recover from the first half of the year, which saw the number of domestic tourists dropping 62% to 1.17 billion on year, and tourism revenue plummet 77%, according to government data.

“We are relatively optimistic about the tourism economy in the latter half of 2020,” the China Tourism Academy concluded.

Zhou Weihong, vice general manager of Shanghai-based Spring Travel, said the impact of the pandemic on operations is huge.

“Before the cross-province travel ban was lifted in mid July, business was basically frozen for half a year,” she said.

During the pandemic, self-rescue became the buzz word for travel companies which turned to live-streaming to hawk deals or came up with suburban travel packages and promotion campaigns to encourage consumers to travel.

The report also pointed out that China’s lower tier cities had increasingly become a popular choice for local tourists, and that they have contributed a larger proportion to domestic tourism consumption.

Reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Rashmi Aich