Revenge travel in China is well on track

 Friday, May 5, 2023 


Holiday spending during China’s Golden Week has surged past pre-pandemic levels for the first time in three years, in a sign the country’s travellers have fully emerged from the depths of Covid-related restrictions and are eager to live large to make up for lost time.

For many, this May Day period, spanning five days from April 29 to May 3, was the first chance to go on vacation in more than three years, without having to worry about catching COVID-19.

During the Chinese New Year holiday in January, many people stayed home because of fears of infection during China’s “exit wave” when an unknown number of people caught the disease.

Travellers made 274 million trips within mainland China during the holiday, up 71% from a year ago and 19% higher than 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Wednesday.

Revenue from domestic tourism reached 148 billion yuan ($21 billion), up 129% from a year earlier and also slightly higher than 2019.

Many tourist attractions were much more crowded this week than during previous long holidays. Reports and photos of too many people crammed into buses, bridges or restaurants are all over social media.

“This May Day is crazy!” was a popular hashtag on various social medias. Many travellers complained online that they could only see other people’s heads during visits to tourist attractions during the holiday, which is also known as Labor Day.

Some said there were so many tourists in Changsha, a city in the southern province of Hunan, that the wait list for a popular dinner spot had more than 300 people at one point.

To attend a music festival in the city, some even set up a tent outside the venue overnight to secure a spot in the line.

China’s vast railway network, a major mode of transportation, saw a record 120 million trips made from April 27 to May 4, up 20% from the same period in 2019, the national railway operator announced.

Economic boost

Services-related consumption staged a major rebound this week.

Revenues reported by dining and retail companies jumped nearly 20% during the holiday, data from the Ministry of Commerce indicated. It’s a significant increase, as retail sales growth was just 10.6% in March.

Alipay, the country’s biggest digital payment app, reported a 200% increase in online holiday spending from a year earlier. The amount was also 70% higher than the 2019 level.

Revenge travel boom [is] in play, said travel analysts. With the latest pulse check, China’s services recovery, especially for offline services and long-haul travels, is well on track.

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