Months after the government shifted its focus to domestic consumption following an unprecedented export slowdown caused by the economic crisis, Chinese consumers have finally responded with their wallets.
The country's consumer spending rose strongly during the Lunar New Year holiday period, which just ended, the Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday.
Retail sales climbed to 290 billion yuan ($42.5 billion) in the week through Saturday, up 13.8 percent from the equivalent holiday week in 2008, the ministry estimated.
Meanwhile, a 15 percent increase in both the number of tourists and tourism revenue has been estimated for 19 tourist destinations nationwide during the week, according to the latest press release of the National Tourism Administration, posted on its website (www.cnta.gov.cn) on Sunday.
Holiday travel rose 20 to 40 percent in the economic powerhouses of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong, while the tourism market flourished in the southwestern Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces as well as Chongqing municipality, the document said.
Instead of traditional family reunions at home, "traveling has emerged as an important option in celebrating the Spring Festival for our citizens" this year, it concluded.
Beijing, Hong Kong, Sanya, Xiamen and Chengdu were listed among the top 10 tourist destinations during the annual festival season by Ctrip.com, a leading online travel portal.
The nation's capital, which topped the list, accommodated 830,000 tourists, up 20 percent from last year. Its tourism revenue totaled 2.16 billion yuan. Both figures are all-time records, the Beijing municipal tourism bureau said.
Chengdu, capital city of the quake-ravaged Sichuan province, ranked 10th.
The Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily attributed the unexpected rise in Spring Festival tourism to cheaper travel costs.
In Guangdong, for example, domestic travel costs 30 percent less than last year, while trips to Thailand cost half as much as in previous years as a result of the global economic slowdown.
Sales of food at major stores during the past week jumped 23 percent in value terms, while beverage sales gained 17.5 percent and sales of tobacco and alcohol rose 14.7 percent, the ministry estimated.
Sales of household electric appliances, aided by a government program to subsidize purchases in rural areas, gained 17.8 percent.
Last year's Lunar New Year holiday week was disrupted by fierce snowstorms that snarled rail and air traffic, stranding millions of passengers. Holiday travel was much smoother this year.
Over the past 20 days, the Chinese made an average 4.40 million railway trips every day as many crossed the country for holiday reunions with their families, Xinhua news agency quoted the railway ministry as saying. That was up 15.6 percent from the same holiday period last year.
A total of 248 million people traveled by road in the week through Saturday, up 5.6 percent from last year, the transport ministry said.
Source: China Daily/Xinhua