China expects May Day travel boom with anti-epidemic measures in place
In a few days, China's airports, train stations and tourist sites will be filled with buzzing travelers and tourists while regular COVID-19 containment measures remain in place.
A travel bonanza is fast approaching as tickets during the upcoming five-day Labor Day holiday starting on May 1 have been in high demand.
"The holiday gives me a chance to escape from the stress of work," said Zhang Chuanshi, 35, who works for an internet company. He decided to go to Yunnan after Beijing scrapped mandatory nucleic acid tests for arrivals from areas with low COVID-19 infection risks.
Zhang said his family had to drop their overseas travel plans due to concerns over the epidemic situation.
Leading indicators such as search volumes for travel destinations, flights and hotels suggest the tourism industry will embrace a welcome boom during the holiday.
On online travel booking platform Ctrip, orders for flight tickets, accommodation, admission tickets, and car rentals rose 23 percent, 43 percent, 114 percent and 126 percent from the same period of 2019 as of mid-April.
The number of travelers over the period is expected to reach 200 million and surpass the pre-pandemic level, according to Ctrip's projections.
"Many people will take advantage of the long holiday to go somewhere relatively far from their homes, such as Xinjiang and Tibet," said Zhao Chenyan, an operator at Beijing Zhuyuan International Travel Service Co., Ltd.
The surge in demand has been met with a similar surge in prices. For instance, the price for joining a tour to Sanya in south China's island province Hainan is three times higher than a year ago, as island resorts in Thailand, Bali and the Philippines are still not fully open to foreign tourists, she said.
"Thanks to the effective epidemic containment measures adopted by China, the five-day holiday is expected to unleash the pent-up demand for air transport," said Shang Kejia, vice director of the Department of Transport of the Civil Aviation Administration of China(CAAC) at a press conference on April 16.
"Both the volume and prices of flight tickets showed rapid growth, and are likely to rise above the level from 2019, boosted by the sharp growth in the number of mid- and long-distance travelers in the extended holiday," said Shang.
Cultural sites, including science halls, archaeological sites and museums, are among the most popular destinations, partly because public holidays represent the best opportunity for families with children to travel in the middle of a semester.
This year marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China, which has fueled people's enthusiasm for "red tourism," a term referring to visiting historical sites with a revolutionary legacy.
"We have rolled out a two-week tour to retrace the Long March route of the Red Army in the 1930s, which has attracted many retired people who have the money and time as well as the desire to pay their respects to the heroes," said Zhao.
Recent discoveries at the Sanxingdui Ruins in southwest China's Chengdu City, which unveiled the mysteries of the Shu Kingdom dating back thousands of years, could be partially responsible for the Beijing-Chengdu flight route enjoying the largest rise in popularity among all routes on online travel service provider Qunar.com.
As China's COVID-19 vaccination program is expanding and domestic travelers coming from areas with low infection risks are no longer required to undergo nucleic acid tests, people are now more comfortable going on a trip, said Zhao.
"However, we still require our clients to wear face masks throughout their journey and our staff to sterilize the buses twice a day," she said.
The CAAC has advised passengers to maintain anti-epidemic measures, use self-service check-in facilities to reduce direct contact with other people and notify staff if they develop symptoms include fever, dry cough or fatigue.
Passengers are urged to pay close attention to the epidemic situation and related regulations of their destination, and avoid traveling to places with a medium or high risk of infection, the CAAC noted.
In the first quarter of 2021, China recorded 136 percent and 150 percent increases in tourist trips and tourism revenue from a year earlier, respectively, data from the China Tourism Academy (CTA) showed.
A survey by the academy suggested that over 83 percent of the respondents said they are willing to travel in the second quarter of 2021, up 1.02 percentage points and 4.93 percentage points compared with the last quarter and the second quarter of 2020, respectively.
"China's tourism consumption is enjoying a speedy recovery. It will see a consumption boom in the third quarter of this year, especially during the weeklong National Day holiday," said Dai Bin, director of the academy.
According to the CTA, 4.1 billion domestic tourist trips are expected to be made in China in 2021, up 42 percent from 2020, and domestic tourism revenue is expected to surge 48 percent to reach 3.3 trillion yuan (about 508 billion U.S. dollars).