China Focus: May Day holiday tourism boom fuels market rebound

(Xinhua) 13:50, May 03, 2023

People visit Jianchang ancient city in Xichang, southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 1, 2023. China is witnessing a travel boom during this year's five-day May Day holiday. (Photo by Li Jieyi/Xinhua)

BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- China's tourism industry will reap a bumper harvest during the May Day holiday, which ends on Wednesday, heralding the industry's overall recovery and strong rebound this year.

It was predicted that the five-day holiday, the first such holiday since China optimized its COVID response late last year, will see more than 200 million domestic trips, bringing in a total tourism revenue of over 100 billion yuan (about 14.44 billion U.S. dollars).

This can be seen as a turning point of China's tourism sector. The market performance has truly returned to its 2019 level, according to Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy.

Travel-hungry citizens started to head for tourist attractions across the country on the eve of the holiday. Around 120 million domestic trips are expected to be made by railway passengers from April 27 to May 4 during the holiday transport period, up 20 percent from the same period in 2019, according to a forecast of the railway authorities.

"This is the first time that we go on a long trip over the past three years," said tourist Zhang Zhenyue who was on vacation with his family in the resort island of south China's Hainan Province. "People mountain people sea, but we do have fun here."

The long-lost hustling and bustling is back. Observers believed the lucrative May Day holiday added fuel to the strong momentum of China's tourism recovery.

Data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism shows that more than 1.2 billion domestic trips were made in the first quarter, bringing in 1.3 trillion yuan of tourism revenue, up 46.5 percent and 69.5 percent year on year, respectively.

"Since the Spring Festival especially, more and more elderly people and children have started to travel, indicating that the tourism market is warming up," said Guo Lechun, vice president of the big data research institute under online travel service provider Qunar.

With the pent-up demand for travel greatly unleashed, many cities that were once little known became new tourist destinations, some of which are referred to as "emerging online celebrity cities."

One such city in east China's Shandong Province has become a smash hit since March, with hundreds of thousands of foodies flocking there for local-speciality barbecue.

"It tastes marvelous and is worth waiting for more than three hours," said a tourist surnamed Liu, who drove almost 300 kilometers to the city of Zibo. "What attracts us most is the relaxing and harmonious atmosphere here."

It is estimated that the city with a population of about 4.7 million will receive approximately 120,000 tourist visits during the May Day holiday, a formidable year-on-year surge of 2,000 percent.

Once an old industrial base, the city is now widely known for its distinctive style of cooking, its historical sites and colorful glazed handicrafts, establishing itself as a popular tourist city.

Zibo's success story has also been attributed to the local hospitality and supportive measures that were released in a timely manner for the convenience of tourists, such as stringent price controls for hotels and taxi fares, as well as making improvements to infrastructure.

A central leadership meeting on economic work held on the eve of the holiday stressed the need to improve the country's consumption environment and promote services consumption in the culture and tourism sector.

During the holiday, China's tourism authorities took a spate of measures to ensure the sound operations of tourist attractions and improve the tourist experience, including strengthening the supervision of food safety, limiting passenger flows and controlling price caps.

The tourism recovery also stimulated outbound international trips during the holiday. Data from Alibaba's travel branch Fliggy shows that orders for outbound trips during the holiday increased by 200 percent compared to this year's Spring Festival.

Industrial analysts believe that confidence in China's tourism industry has returned close to the pre-epidemic level. "Tourism plays an important role in boosting catering, accomodation and retail sectors, and its recovery can help drive the overall consumption of the society," said Dai.

A blue paper on China's tourism economy recently released by the China Tourism Academy estimates that about 4.55 billion domestic tourist trips will be made this year, soaring 73 percent from 2022. It also projects that China will see more than 90 million inbound and outbound trips this year. 

(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Hongyu)


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