Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, September 05, 2003

China Gears up for Long National Day Holiday

The State Council's recent endorsement of a week-long National Day holiday will allow many Chinese people to make up for missing out on the May Day holiday due to the SARS outbreak.


The State Council's recent endorsement of a week-long National Day holiday will allow many Chinese people to make up for missing out on the May Day holiday due to the SARS outbreak.

Wang Xiaomei, a 27-year-old lawyer in Beijing, is waiting anxiously for her driver's licence.

The first thing she rushed to do in the aftermath of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak was to complete her driving lessons. Because, she said, she "must'' get her driver's licence before the National Day holiday.

"A couple of my friends plan to use the week-long holiday to drive around in (East China's) Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, and I do not want to be left out,'' she said.

"Such a long holiday is especially precious for busy people like us lawyers. Now that my May Day holiday was ruined by SARS, I have got to have some real fun during the National Day holiday.''

Not many other people want to do the same, which is music to the ears of the country's travel agencies, as many Chinese people still do not have their own means of transport. "Not that many Chinese have got cars of their own. Moreover, especially when it comes to overseas travel, the help of professional agencies can save on procedural problems, save money and enhance safety,'' said Yi Fei, general manager of the Trans-Himalayan Holidays in Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, which specializes in travel to Nepal via the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Yi's business suffered a heavy blow between April and June due to SARS, but it now has a good chance of getting back into the black.

Huge demand for accommodation in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa means people planning to go there during the National Day holiday should try and make their minds up as soon as possible, said Yi.

The Chinese people's growing demand for travel is also good news for foreign countries and regions interested in attracting Chinese tourists.

Take Beijing as an example. It has witnessed many colourful tourism promotions since late August, urging Chinese tourists to spend their National Day holiday in such countries as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Germany, Egypt and Switzerland.

Under the strong support of these host countries, various Beijing-based travel agencies have produced a range of new routes and services.

However, these new products also bring with them price rises. For example, the lowest price of a trip to Australia was 6,600 yuan (US$797.1) in early July, but it is now 9,800 yuan (US$1,183).

Wang Yanguang, an official with the China International Travel Service, said this has something to do with the recent appreciation of the Australian dollar, and the ending of discounts offered by related industries.

Although flight tickets with discounts of more than 40 per cent were easy to find in July, this was not the case in August.

Although the price rises might affect some people, market demand remains strong, said Wang.

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