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Chinese rush overseas for holiday

China Daily/Xinhua | Updated: 2013-02-08 08:30

Liu Jing has decided not to go home to see her family for Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, this year. Instead, she will celebrate the festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, thousands of miles from her hometown.

"I am going to spend Spring Festival overseas to seek inner peace," said Liu, 24, who just resigned from her job. "I'll have New Year's Eve dinner with other backpackers and send my greetings home via the Internet."

Liu Jing is just one of the many Chinese people who will travel abroad during the traditional family-reunion Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Feb 10 this year.

Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China, and the tradition is to return home to have dinner with the whole family on New Year's Eve, the last day of the Chinese lunar calendar.

However, many choose to leave the country to go on vacation, due to an increase in income, flexible visa policies and a strong Chinese currency.

Experts said this trend shows Chinese people are converting from basic consumption such as food and clothing to a higher level, including travel.

"The consumption value of Chinese people has been gradually transforming from survival to comfort and leisure," said Li Xinjian, chair of tourism management department at Beijing International Studies University.

There has been a 30 percent increase in bookings for overseas travel during Spring Festival this year compared with 2011, with Thailand being the most attractive country, said Zhu Lianli, manager of China Youth Travel Service's Guangxi Branch.

The increasing enthusiasm for overseas trips during Spring Festival is part of a surging market of China's outbound tourism.

According to the China Tourism Academy, about 82 million Chinese went on foreign tours in 2012, up 16.7 percent year-on-year, taking $98 billion to their destinations.

"According to the tourism economics theory, when a nation's per capita gross domestic product exceeds $5,000, foreign travel grows rapidly," said Li Yanqin, an assistant professor of management from Minzu University of China.

"The current travel frenzy accords with the theory," said Professor Li, as in 2011, China's per-capita GDP for the first time exceeded $5,000 and individual disposable income also increased.

Kevin Watkins, who has been visiting China to promote tourism of New Zealand since 2004, said the growing wealth in a larger section of the population gives Chinese people the means and ability to satisfy their travel desires.

"Overseas travel requires time. New Year usually allows a seven-day holiday, and this creates an opportunity for busy Chinese people," said Watkins, also a city councilor in Hastings, New Zealand.

"I know families love to be together at this time, but I am sure as family incomes increase and disposable income increases, families and individuals will look more and more to enjoy a new experience overseas."

Another factor that excites the overseas destinations is that Chinese visitors love shopping.

A report jointly released by the China Tourism Academy and the National Tourism Administration last year said shopping is a driving force that boosts consumption.

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