Holiday economy scores good returns
The seven-day holiday that just concluded Friday in celebration of May Day, or the International Labor Day, witnessed a wide range of recreational activities for the Chinese people and posted good economic returns across the nation.
The holiday economy is now seen not only as a means by the government to spur domestic consumption but also as a good chance for common people to improve their lives in leisure as a new cultural mode, some economists and sociologists believe.
China began having a week-long holiday to celebrate May Day in 2001. Last year the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, forced the central government to cancel the arrangement for the spring.
According to the office for nationwide tourism coordination, nearly 30 percent of China's urban population chose travel as a major recreational fashion for the holiday week.
Data as of May 6 provided by the office showed that from May 1 to 6, a total of 13.15 million tourists were received at 99 major scenic spots on the Chinese mainland, with 455 million yuan (US$54.82 million) in earnings from tickets.
On May 1, the first day of the holiday week, more than 200,000 people came to Beijing. Top hotels had an average occupancy rate of 58 percent while ordinary hotels had 43 percent and suburban inns 65 percent.
The number of tourists to the country's capital was estimated to accumulate to more than 100 million by Friday, the office said.
Liaoning Province in northeast China received over 5 million tourists in the seven days, a growth of 15 percent over the same period of 2002; and garnered over 2.1 billion yuan (US$253.01 million) in earnings from tourism, up 16 percent from the same period in 2002, according to the local branch of the nationwide tourism coordination office.
To transport the tourists, roads played an important role.
According to officials with the Ministry of Communication, about 310 million people traveled by public vehicles and trains in the seven days, nine percent more than the level at the same period of 2002.
Besides public transport vehicles, more and more people chose to travel with their own vehicles.
"Traffic was smooth when I drove from Beijing to the summer resort Beidaihe in Hebei Province," said a female tourist surnamed Guo.
"Both Beijing and Hebei had the number of exits on their highways increased, and there was no queue at all of the toll stations," Guo added.
Apart from traveling, recreational activities also include " keep-fit" exercising at the gym, swimming and tennis and table tennis playing.
Doing physical exercises really embodied the significance of holidays, said a middle-aged man surnamed Liang who became a gym club member at the Beijing Scite Keep-fit Center in the holiday week.
Liang designed an exercise agenda for the holiday, by which he played tennis for one hour and a half on each of the seven days.
Shopping was another major activity in the holiday economy.
In Beijing alone, retail sales for the holiday week were estimated at 7 billion yuan (US$843.37 million), and sales income of commerce enterprises in the city, at 1.11 billion yuan (US$133.73 million).
Rough statistics show that in comparison with ordinary weeks, the holiday week saw sales at department stores in Beijing rise by 51 percent and that at supermarkets and convenience stores, by 57 percent.