Rethink 'golden weeks'

(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-07 10:52

When the government announced in September 1999 it would bring in three week-long national holidays on May 1, October 1 and the lunar New Year's Day, few anticipated the downsides that have cultivated a fear of them for many of us.

We want longer holidays. Our diligent workers need extra leisure time to refresh. Our economy needs a boost from domestic consumers' growing spending power.

So does the government. Its generous offer of prolonged vacations was first and foremost to lure the otherwise busy salary-earners out of their offices and homes to spend.

Statistics after each of the past "golden weeks" showed that end was served quite well.

But it does not seem a good idea to make a nation of 1.3 billion hit the road in the very same seven days three times a year.

Crowding alone has rendered many holidaymakers' otherwise enjoyable sightseeing or shopping trips joyless, to say the very least. Almost all complaints during such holidays in recent years had to do with crowding.

The seven-year itch now pestering the so-called "golden week" scheme tells us it is time we reflected, seriously, on its pros and cons.

In the abundance of arguments for or against the national holiday scheme, few are as impressive as the latest from the China National Democratic Construction Association.

Special research under the auspices of the association suggested the May and October "golden weeks" be scrapped and the extra time split and designated to four traditional festivals on the Chinese calendar Tomb Sweeping Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Spring Festival.

One of the most constructive functions of this scheme is that it answers calls to give national holiday status to traditional festivals. It is in line with the awakening awareness of the nation's cultural identity. Perhaps most important of all to our cost-conscious decision-makers, it will meet that need without adding to the total length of national holidays.

This appears to be an option involving one stone and two birds.

But there is also a point that makes it vulnerable to the opposition of those in favour of longer holidays.

It challenges decision-makers to weigh up this scheme against the proposal to allow every citizen two weeks of paid holiday at whatever time the individual chooses.

The national tourism authorities, the biggest beneficiary of the "golden weeks," have pledged to rethink the design amid loud public outcry.

They should take such thought-provoking ideas into account while making their own judgement. To come up with a sensible solution, they should study and try to incorporate the constructive elements of all such proposals.

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