Record number of Chinese who will travel during Labor Day break, but stay close to home
A record wave of Chinese tourists will hit the road for the Labor Day break, and with borders still closed, many will travel within the country, to places further afield, and for longer, giving the Chinese economy a powerful boost. short term.
The vacation will be China’s first long break under largely COVID-free conditions and will trigger months of pent-up travel desire. Millions of people had missed the opportunity to go out earlier this year during the long Lunar New Year break due to a domestic coronavirus outbreak.
Up to 200 million trips will be made by tourists to the country, surpassing 195 million in 2019 before COVID-19, according to data from online travel giant Trip.com Group (9961.HK), establishing a new record for the holidays. .
This is in stark contrast to the rest of the world where many countries are still struggling to get the virus under control, let alone opening up domestic or even international travel.
“This May Day holiday will see greater enthusiasm for long-distance travel through mainland Chinese provinces,” Trip.com told Reuters.
Mass vaccination in China’s largest cities has also boosted confidence in travel. Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust, told Reuters that 300 million travelers were expected, including tourists and people who had not been able to visit their families before, equivalent to the population of the United States. United.
Some tourists are even taking extra days off to turn the May 1-5 vacation into a nine-day break, with the aim of visiting remote national sites as a replacement for COVID-affected destinations overseas, officials say. trips.
Before the pandemic, Labor Day was a peak time for international travel, with Thailand, Japan and Singapore being the hottest destinations. But strict quarantine measures and reduced flights have stranded Chinese travelers for more than a year.
James Liang, co-founder and executive chairman of the Trip.com group, told Reuters that domestic destinations that can replace overseas resorts are all popular.
âFor example, Sanya is a substitute for Thailand, and Xinjiang and Tibet are substitutes for long-distance cross-border travel,â he said.
Hotel room rates have skyrocketed and air fares have skyrocketed, even as more and more flights are added.
Flights to and from the southern resort island of Hainan will be 22% higher than the 2019 vacation, according to Hainan Airlines (600221.SS).
Li Hua, operator of a boutique guesthouse in Dali known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful Yunnan scenery, said its 16 rooms have been reserved.
âWe have increased the room rates by 50%,â Li said. âHalf of the total profit we made during the week will be spent on bonus staff.â
According to Li, local luxury guest houses have all raised their prices due to high demand.
âHotels that charge over 3,000 yuan ($ 464 per night) are the most popular,â he said.
The situation is similar in Tibet.
âEach of our hotels is fully booked for vacations,â said Cai Jinghui, chief strategy officer for Songtsam Group, a luxury boutique chain with 11 properties.
Car rental companies are doing booming business, with bookings up 126% as of April 16 compared to the 2019 vacation, according to Trip.com.
Car bookings in Kashgar and Urumqi, two cities in China’s far western Xinjiang region, increased 500% and 367%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019.
People are increasingly renting cars or driving their own vehicles with family or friends, instead of joining large tour groups where they would be with strangers, said Su Shu, founder of the based Moment Travel agency. in Chengdu.
Lin Meng, who works for an internet company in Shanghai, said she would brave the long winding roads of Guizhou, a mountainous region in southwest China known for its beautiful but hard-to-reach karst landscapes and villages of ethnic minorities.
âI just hope I don’t get caught in a big crowd there,â she said.
($ 1 = 6.4710 yuan Chinese renminbi)
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