Purpose: This paper explores the role of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a tourism recovery drawcard to boost China's inbound tourism after COVID-19.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper employed a mixed method involving a cross-disciplinary literature review along with reflections from experts in TCM and health communication to inform tourism management. Specifically, this paper examines TCM and its potential benefits as a medical tourism drawcard to combat COVID-19. The selected literature focusses on the image and merits of TCM to frame how this medical philosophy can be used to position China as a tourist destination. Reflections on the use of TCM as a tourism marketing tool can guide promotional strategies from the Chinese government and destination managers during and after COVID-19.
Findings: The Chinese government, the tourism industry (e.g. destination managers), the media and tourists must focus on three aspects of the role of TCM: to provide medical benefits to travellers amid COVID-19 and beyond, elevate China as a destination for global medical tourists and be leveraged as a tool for economic recovery.
Practical implications: The paper builds a tourism recovery framework for stakeholders to adopt tailored TCM communication strategies to boost its inbound tourism programme.
Originality/value: This paper is the first academic paper to review TCM comprehensively and critically in relation to China tourism and post-COVID-19 recovery measures.