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China prepares for record-breaking May holiday travel

by Robynne Tindall
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is china seeing a tourism boom?

Is China seeing a tourism boom? With Covid-19 under control in the country, the upcoming May holiday is expected to bring record levels of travel and spending, writes Robynne Tindall.

More than 250 million people are expected to take trips around China during the upcoming Labour Day national holiday from 1-5 May. This year’s holiday has been extended to five days instead of the usual three in a bid to encourage domestic consumption that looks to have paid off, with bookings surpassing the same period in 2019 in many areas.

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Early estimates released by travel platforms like Trip.com and Qunar show a spike in bookings for the period as far as a month before the holiday, with air and rail tickets and hotel rooms selling out across many cities. Popular destinations include Sanya, Beijing, Chengdu and Wuhan.

China’s official train ticket booking platform, 12306, sold hundreds of thousands of tickets in just a few minutes on 17 April, the first day that tickets for 1 May went on sale. According to statistics released by the platform, it had sold 3.15 million tickets by 6pm on 17 April – three times that of 2019. 

Meanwhile, tickets for major museums, theme parks and tourists sites such as the Palace Museum in Beijing, and the Disney Resort in Shanghai, are equally hard to come by, with most attractions still restricting visitor numbers to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

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The May holiday comes at a time when many people in China are feeling confident enough to travel longer distances again now that Covid-19 has been well contained. During this year’s Spring Festival in February, China’s other peak travel season, travel was discouraged due to small, sporadic outbreaks around the country. 

Marketers are likely to be watching the holiday closely, as trends during this period could shed light on future development trends in the industry. For example, figures suggest that more travellers are choosing to travel to remote destinations such as Qinghai Province in western China, or opting for self-drive holidays to avoid crowded public transport. China’s domestic tourists are also increasingly young and adventurous; some sites have reported increased bookings from the so-called post-00s generation, the oldest of which turn 21 this year.

Nevertheless, Covid-19 is still on people’s minds and many travellers remain cautious. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines reminding travellers to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated areas and to continue to wear masks when travelling on planes and trains.

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