‘Revenge travel’ in China boosts economic recovery

Tourist sites across China were packed to bursting in the beginning of this month as millions of locals and citizens celebrated the 71st anniversary of Golden Week, the eight-day public holiday marking the mid-autumn festival and China’s national day.

Economic spending is a key indicator of the success of economic recovery against Covid-19. China’s retail and restaurant sales reached 1.6 trillion yuan (US$235.5 billion) over the ‘golden week’ holiday, with daily sales up 4.9 per cent compared to last year. The holiday shows China’s success in reopening the economy after a hard-fought victory over the virus. Furthermore, the holiday drew in huge crowds; the Ministry of Culture and Tourism claims tourism revenue for the year totaled 76.7 billion yuan, 70% of last year’s.

“China’s tourism market is expected to see a wave of growth led by people’s desire to ‘revenge travel,’ said the state-owned Workers’ Daily ahead of Golden Week. The term, which has been used widely in Chinese media recently, reflected the government’s hope that people would travel or consume more than they usually do during the weeklong holiday because of pent-up demand from being cooped up.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism estimated 600 million domestic tourists or about 40% of the total national population have traveled amid the coronavirus. While the number may have shrunk compared to the nearly 800 million tourists last year, it is still a stunning figure in an era where global travel is not expected to rebound for several years.

China’s National Day commemorates the establishment of the people’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, by the Chinese Communist Party after winning the Chinese civil war. Nowadays China’s National Day is surrounded by consecutive days of nation-wide holidays also known as ‘Golden Week’. The name is given to the week because it falls at the beginning of Autumn, when most regions in China boast some of the best weather of the whole year.

While the rest of the world continues to struggle with the deadly coronavirus pandemic and are discouraging unnecessary travel, pictures from Chinese social media show thousands of tourists freely traveling domestically during the week – the latest sign that life in China is almost back to normal eight months after the first outbreak leads to severe quarantines. This is a far cry from the first few months of 2020 where, during the Chinese Lunar New Year, the biggest Chinese traveling season of the year was cut short to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The number of tourists at top attractions across the country jumped by 159% in the second quarter of the year compared to the first, at the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of rural tourists in July and August was nearly back to normal at 90% of last year’s.

Hotel bookings are 50% higher compared to last year, and airline reservations are on a par with 2019, helped by discounts for hotels and flights. People have been observed to be complaining online about the lack of tickets and rooms for hotels that sometimes make it difficult to move.

Transactions on WeChat Pay, the digital payment service operated by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, grew 83 percent at tourist sites and 71 percent at hotels during the first three days of the holiday, according to a report by WeChat on Sunday. Meanwhile, the number of WeChat Pay transactions at shopping malls increased by 30%.

With the coronavirus currently still raging in the West and in other parts of Asia, for this Golden Week Chinese have had few options for overseas holidays, with many opting to travel domestically instead. Tourists who would normally have done so otherwise have said they are not willing to undertake the lengthy quarantine times required on both ends of their travel. Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, some of the most popular destinations among travelers, closed its airports to international commercial flights and have yet to fully reopen.

China has reported fewer locally transmitted coronavirus cases since August causing local governments to ease restrictions on daily life, and allowing tourism sites to operate at 75% capacity. To encourage tourism in local attractions, more than 500 scenic locations across the country were giving free admission or discounts to visitors. Armed with hand wash, face shields, masks, temperature checks, and social distancing, citizens traveled all across the country to celebrate with friends and family.

The rebound in China’s tourism is shadowed by the country’s widening wealth gap as a result of the pandemic. Due to a lack of financial aid, China’s poorest populations are struggling more than their richer peers. The poorest families, who earned less than 50,000 yuan in the first three months of the year, are among the groups that saw the biggest reduction in living standards.

Despite this, China is still determined to accomplish the tasks for winning the battle against poverty this year. Chinese President Xi Jinping has underscored the perseverance and determination of the nation to win the battle against poverty.

He calls for enhancing the development capacity of the low-income population in underdeveloped and rural areas via education, encouraging low-income populations with the capacity to achieve prosperity through hard-work and facilitating the gradual realization of common prosperity.

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