China’s aviation authority announced plans to expand domestic flights by 34% over pre-pandemic levels, boosting the recovery of Chinese carriers.

Before COVID-19, travel and tourism had grown to be one of the most significant sectors in the global economy, accounting for 10% of global GDP and more than 320 million employment globally.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global pandemic, the first of its scale in a new era of interconnectedness, has put 100 million jobs at risk, many in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises that employ a high proportion of women, who account for 54 percent of the tourism workforce.

Tourism-dependent nations are likely to bear the brunt of the crisis’s consequences for far longer than other economies. Contact-intensive services critical to the tourist and travel industries have been disproportionately impacted by the epidemic and will continue to suffer until people feel comfortable enough to travel in large numbers again.

Tourism revenues are not likely to rebound to pre-crisis levels until 2023. According to current IMF research on tourism in a post-pandemic world, worldwide visitor arrivals decreased by more than 65 percent in the first half of this year, with a virtual standstill since April, compared to 8 percent during the global financial crisis and 17 percent during the 2003 SARS outbreak.

On Friday, China’s main airlines posted their first quarterly profits in more than three years, fueling industry expectations that China’s big three state carriers may finally emerge from the COVID-19 plague.

According to a synopsis of a Friday news conference on the website of CAAC News, which is maintained by the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China will launch its winter and spring season flight schedule on Sunday, which will continue until March 30.

 There will be 96,651 domestic flights each week, up 34% from the same time four years ago, with 7,202 extra weekly flights added as a result of the introduction of 516 new domestic routes.

According to the regulator, the growth in domestic flights is focused on links between regional and major airports like as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

International flights, despite taking longer to recover, are also gaining traction. There will be 16,680 weekly flights in the next five months, with passenger flights estimated to reach 71% of the level four years ago.

Flights to and from 22 countries, including the United Kingdom and Italy, have approached or surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to the regulator.

According to a post on Sunday on the CAAC News WeChat account, weekly direct passenger flights between China and the United States are projected to expand from 48 to 70 over the winter and spring seasons.