Bustling holidays portend solid start for China’s economic recovery in 2024

(Global Times) 08:55, January 02, 2024

China's three-day New Year's Day holidays, which ended on Monday, saw a consumer market boom with bustling travel and spending activities across the country, according to various data on Monday, offering more vivid displays of sustained vitality and vast potential in China's consumption market, the biggest driver for economic growth.

The busy scenes across China - from a square in Southwest China's Chongqing packed with New Year's Eve revelers to record numbers of ice and snow enthusiasts in Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang - all pointed to a solid start for China's economic recovery in 2024, particularly the rebound in consumption, analysts said on Monday.

Meanwhile, many localities have further stepped up efforts to boost spending, as they doled out consumption vouchers to spur spending, part of a broad national campaign to boost domestic consumption. Amid such efforts, consumption will continue to see a steady recovery in 2024 and will in turn lift the overall economic recovery process, analysts noted.

During the three-day holidays, a total of 135 million domestic tourist trips were made, up 155.3 percent year-on-year, and total domestic tourism revenue reached 79.73 billion yuan, jumping, 200.7 percent from the same period in 2023 and 5.6 percent from 2019 before the pandemic, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Monday.

During the three-day New Year's Day holidays, more than 128 million passenger trips were made on China's transport network, up 78.4 percent from the same period in 2023 and 33.1 percent from 2022, according to the Ministry of Transport on Monday. Notably, the number of railway passenger trips surged 177.5 percent year-on-year, and that of air passenger trips jumped 140.3 percent.

Major Chinese travel platforms reported robust growth in bookings.

On Ctrip, one of the biggest online travel agencies in China, bookings for domestic trips jumped 168 percent year-on-year and overseas trips surged 388 percent, according to a report the platform sent to the Global Times on Monday. It also estimated that the number of inbound and outbound trips increased fivefold during the holidays.

LY.com, another major online travel agency, said the tourism market continued to heat up during the three-day holidays and bookings for its main services, including lodging, transport and tickets to attraction sites, reached new records. Specifically, ticket bookings for scenic spots increased by 302 percent year-on-year and fivefold compared with the same period in 2020, the platform said in a report shared with the Global Times on Monday.

Those robust figures were also reflected in lively scenes in many parts of China, with some cities seeing record numbers of visits.

On New Year's Eve, Chongqing's subway system witnessed more than 5.08 million passenger trips, a record number, as many flocked to the city's downtown area for a New Year Eve's countdown. Footage of an ecstatic crowd counting down to the new year and releasing balloons have gone viral on social media platforms.

Other scenes that went viral during the New Year's Day holidays came from Harbin's famed ice and snow world, which topped a list of hot tourist spots across China compiled by LY.com. During the holidays, Harbin's popularity jumped by 240 percent, according to the online booking platform.

Meanwhile, the maiden commercial voyage of China's first homegrown large cruise ship, the Adora Magic City, which left a port in Shanghai on Monday, also spurred a boom in bookings. During the holidays, cruise bookings jumped 231 percent month-on-month, and tickets were sold out one and a half months in advance, according to the Ctrip report.

2024 New Year's Day holidays boost consumption in China. Graphic: GT

2024 New Year's Day holidays boost consumption in China. Graphic: GT

Sign of solid start

These bustling scenes across the country during the relatively short holidays demonstrated the vitality of China's consumption market, which has become the biggest driver for economic growth, analysts said.

"Arguably, we have seen very positive signs that 2024 is off to a solid start," Li Chang'an, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday. "They are very positive signs for the recovery of the tourism sector and consumption."

The China Tourism Academy (CTA) said on Monday that in 2024, China's tourism sector is expected to recover to levels seen in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of domestic trips is expected to surpass 6 billion and total domestic tourism revenue is expected to exceed 6 trillion yuan ($845.09 billion), according to the CTA.

In comparison, in 2019, total domestic trips stood at about 6 billion and total tourism revenue reached 6.63 trillion yuan. In 2022, amid the pandemic, total domestic trips fell to about 2.5 billion and total domestic tourism revenue 2.04 trillion yuan, according to official data.

Also in 2024, the total number of inbound and outbound trips is expected to surpass 264 million and international tourism revenue is expected to exceed $107 billion, according to the CTA.

China has taken measures to increase international traveler numbers, including waiving visa requirements for travelers from six countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Malaysia, starting on December 1, 2023. In December, the number of visitors from those six countries surged by 28.5 percent from the previous month, the National Immigration Administration said on Monday.

"The rebound in tourism and consumption has played and will continue to play a crucial role in the overall economic recovery in 2024 and beyond," Li said, noting that boosting consumption will also remain a top priority for the new year.

The Central Economic Work Conference held in December, which set economic work priorities in 2024, called for a slew of measures to expand domestic demand, including creating new forms of consumption, stabilizing and boosting consumption in new-energy vehicles and electronics, as well as giving full play to the role of government investment.

As part of the nationwide efforts to boost consumption, many localities have been taking concrete measures, including handing out consumption vouchers, to boost spending.

During the New Year's Day holidays, Heilongjiang issued consumption vouchers totaling 42.7 million yuan, and Southwest China's Sichuan Province also planned to issue 94 million yuan in consumption vouchers for cultural and tourism activities during the winter holiday season, according to media reports.

"Handing out consumption vouchers is effective but it is part of a comprehensive set of policy measures to boost consumption, which also includes increasing the incomes of consumers and ensuring stable employment," Li said.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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