Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dragon Boat holiday rides wave of travel spending in China amid ‘stable’ tourism

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China reported growth in trips and travel spending over the three-day Dragon Boat Festival, beating last year’s holiday figures as well as those from pre-pandemic 2019, despite the nation’s prolonged spell of an uneven economic recovery.

People in China made 110 million trips from Saturday through Monday, up 6.3 per cent, year on year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The travellers spent 40.35 billion yuan (US$5.56 billion), up 8.1 per cent over the same holiday last year.

“Overall, the domestic culture and tourism markets are stable and orderly,” the ministry said on Monday in announcing the figures online.

Revenue growth over the long weekend augurs well for China’s coming school break, though this year’s summer vacation metrics might miss those of last year when tourism “exploded” because Covid-19 controls had been lifted just months earlier, said Steven Zhao, CEO of the China Highlights online travel agency.

But university-admission exams that took place on Friday and Saturday will be over by summer break, giving families a chance to travel, he said.

“This summer’s travel boom may be more stable than last year,” Zhao said. Nonetheless, he said, “those students make up a big group of travellers”.

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Tourist discovers waterfall in China supplied through pipes

Tourist discovers waterfall in China supplied through pipes

China had tallied 96 million trips during the Dragon Boat Festival weekend of pre-pandemic 2019 and 39.33 billion yuan in spending.

Increased travel was reported as well during the five-day May Day break. China logged 295 million domestic trips over that period, a year-on-year rise of 7.6 per cent year and 28.2 per cent higher than in pre-Covid 2019, according to ministry data.

May Day tourism revenue reached 166.89 billion yuan, 12.7 per cent higher than the previous year and up 13.5 per cent over 2019.

Growth in May Day travel and spending surpassed both those of the Ching Ming Festival holiday in early April and the Spring Festival in February, according to state media tabloid Global Times.

During the most recent holiday, 5.75 million people entered mainland China from offshore – 45.1 per cent more than during the 2023 Dragon Boat Festival period, National Immigration Administration data shows.

Tourism is seen as one reflection of consumer confidence in the wake of China’s choppy economic recovery – with consumption a particularly sore spot – since the lifting of zero-Covid controls at the end of 2022.

Over the Dragon Boat Festival weekend, crowds of travellers with children and phone cameras inundated parks and seashores across the country. Major hotels and restaurants in some spots were filled to capacity.

There were travellers who turned out for organised dragon boat races and ate rice dumplings, per holiday tradition, the ministry statement says. Others preferred “experiential” travel to farms or found “recreational space” in shopping districts, it adds.

Today’s array of travel preferences bodes well for summer break, said Zhang Chen, vice-president of the Chinese travel platform Fliggy. Zhang called the Dragon Boat Festival a “prelude” to this summer, which is traditionally a peak vacation season.

“They are not only enthusiastic about their travel plans but are also actively making arrangements,” Zhang said in a statement for the Post. “This trend bolsters our optimism for a robust uptick in domestic tourism spending this summer.”

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