Wanderlust boosts consumption, economy

Travel boom from Spring Festival to Lantern Festival beats tourism expectations

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-04 09:20
Share - WeChat
A family watch a passenger plane outside Haikou Meilan International Airport in Haikou, Hainan province, on Feb 18. YUAN JINGZHI/FOR CHINA DAILY

The latest consumption boom in China, which began well before this year's Spring Festival in early February, continued well after the extended holiday break into the Lantern Festival weekend, bringing glad tidings, and hopes of a rapid economic recovery to not just the local market or the provinces and regions concerned, but overseas destinations as far away as Norway, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.

Chinese tourists made this year's Feb 10-17 Spring Festival holiday the hottest sales period on record, signifying a global travel peak in the post-pandemic period. They spent more than they did in the corresponding period of 2019 before the COVID-19 outbreak. What's more, they also traveled farther and celebrated the holiday in new scenarios, industry players said.

Chinese tourists traveled to some 125 countries and regions, including some niche destinations such as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cuba, Uruguay, Lithuania and Malta, according to Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency.

Overseas hotel bookings jumped nearly fivefold year-on-year, and international flight ticket sales surged 14 times year-on-year, Qunar said.

"Holiday tourism has beaten expectations. Trips during the Spring Festival holiday have become a new folk custom for Chinese consumers," said Dai Bin, president of the Beijing-based China Tourism Academy.

"While boosting consumer confidence, they are expected to help significantly promote the recovery and growth of the Chinese economy, and global tourism and economic development."

Looking ahead, China's consumer market has strong resilience and abundant vitality, and its long-term fundamentals remain unchanged. With the implementation of various policies and measures to expand domestic demand and stimulate consumption, the consumption market will continue to show a trend of recovery and growth this year, said the Ministry of Commerce.

Norway's Tromso, the world's northernmost city, welcomed a large crowd of Chinese tourists during the holiday. "When I took a cable car ride in Norway, the compartment was full of Chinese tourists. It seemed like I was in the busy Xidan neighborhood in Beijing, not in the Arctic," said Li Yuanyuan, 30, who traveled from Beijing to Tromso for holiday fun.

Xu Yunlei, 40, a teacher from Chongqing, went on a weeklong trip to Turkiye. Like in Tromso, about half of tourists who took a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia were Chinese.

Tourists ride camels at the Mingsha Mountain Crescent Spring in Dunhuang, Gansu province, on Feb 19. ZHANG XIAOLIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Several countries waived off visa requirements for Chinese tourists, which proved very effective. For instance, flight bookings from Chinese cities to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand jump 29 times, 20 times and 16 times year-on-year, respectively, Qunar found.

The total number of air passengers handled in China, including via domestic and international flights, reached 17.99 million during the holiday. The daily average number of passenger trips handled reached 2.25 million, a new high, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

During the period, Haikou-based conglomerate HNA Group operated some 17,500 flights for about 340,000 passenger trips daily, up 43 percent year-on-year. For domestic flights, the average passenger load factor reached 92 percent. Flights to Bangkok and the Phuket island in Thailand and Singapore were particularly popular, and the average passenger load factor reached 90 percent, the company said.

Currently, HNA operates about 70 international and regional routes, and plans to launch new routes from Chongqing to Milan, Italy, and from Linyi in Shandong province to Seoul, South Korea, further promoting the recovery of China's outbound tourism market and enhancing the vitality of the air travel market, it said.

Owing to relatively high prices of domestic flight tickets and hotel rooms during the Spring Festival holiday period, some people chose to travel overseas during the Lantern Festival weekend, which saw a large crowd of tourists this year.

Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Maldives, Japan and Russia were some of the hottest destinations during the Lantern Festival weekend, according to Tuniu Corp, a Nanjing, Jiangsu province-based online travel agency.

Besides, as the festival itself fell on a Saturday (Feb 24), taking a short-haul trip to neighboring areas became the choice of many people. Among those who traveled domestically during the Lantern Festival break, 57 percent went on short-haul tours. More people preferred tours that lasted one or two days; self-driving trips were popular, according to Tuniu.

Among the hot domestic tourist destinations are top-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing, and tourist hot spots like Sanya in Hainan province, Nanjing in Jiangsu province and Chengdu in Sichuan province, the online travel agency said.

"Sightseeing spots across the country have launched lantern fairs and featured activities highlighting Chinese elements, such as riddle-solving and tasting of sweet dumplings made of glutinous rice flour. And activities like experiencing dresses like hanfu, a traditional Chinese-style clothing, have attracted visitors," said Qi Chunguang, vice-president of Tuniu.

Tourists frolic at the Shimeiwan Beach in Wanning, Hainan province, on Feb 19. CHEN YEHUA/XINHUA

For long-haul tours, the number of tourists gradually returned to normal levels after the Spring Festival holiday. Tours to the tropical island of Hainan province, Kunming and Lijiang in Yunnan province, and Northeast China remained popular, Tuniu said.

During the Spring Festival holiday, 12 offshore duty-free shops in Hainan clocked total sales of 3.16 billion yuan ($439 million), with the daily average sales hitting nearly 400 million yuan, up 7.15 percent year-on-year, according to the local government.

Meantime, thanks to the improvement of the highway network and given the popularity of passenger cars, off-road vehicles and recreational vehicles, self-driving trips have emerged as a mode of discovery for the enterprising among travelers in both urban and rural areas.

During the Spring Festival holiday, car rental bookings nearly doubled year-on-year and surged more than 400 percent compared with the festival period of 2019, according to Trip.com Group, China's leading online travel agency.

Besides, the per capita car rental expenses recorded during the holiday reached 3,020 yuan, up 20 percent year-on-year. The longest rental period for self-driving in China was 39 days, with a self-driving distance of about 10,000 kilometers, Trip.com found.

Some popular domestic self-driving routes included the ring roads of Hainan, western Yunnan, western Sichuan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the ring road of Northwest China.

"In the future, car rental market players will focus on service quality and user experience, with each company deepening its expertise, and price wars will not be the main direction," said Song Zhen, CEO of the car rental business of Trip.com.

Overseas self-driving tours were also popular among Chinese tourists, with car rental orders increasing by more than 20 times year-on-year. The longest self-driving rental period was 49 days, according to the company.

Christchurch, Melbourne, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Phuket, Sydney, Bangkok, Auckland and Abu Dhabi were the top 10 most popular overseas destinations for self-driving trips of Chinese consumers during the festival period.

Those born in the 1980s and 1990s remain the main consumer groups of car rentals, and consumers born after the year 2000 became the age group that has seen the fastest growth in the volume of orders, Trip.com said.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349