China seizes Spring Festival to heat up tourism, consumption

BEIJING: Heated competition for Spring Festival visitors has resumed at Chinese scenic spots, shopping malls and cinemas, following the end of a three-year lull caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With China recently downgrading its management of COVID-19, unleashing pent-up travel demand, legions of tourists have again been spotted across China during the week-long Spring Festival holiday that started on Saturday.
In response, local governments and industries are rolling out festive activities, lively bazaars and shopping coupons in all-out efforts to buoy the long-awaited recovery from the COVID-19 doldrums.
This year’s Spring Festival is the first in three years not to encourage Chinese people to stay put during the festival to prevent large-scale outbreaks. The festival usually sees hundreds of millions of Chinese head to their hometowns to unite with families.
Passenger trips for this year’s Spring Festival travel rush are expected to reach 2.1 billion, almost twice as much as last year or 70.3 percent of the 2019 reading, according to the Ministry of Transport.
The lifting of many COVID-19 restrictions, coupled with subsiding infections in many Chinese cities, have fanned the travel frenzy, which also features travelers returning home from overseas.
“We haven’t returned to China for three years. We’re so happy to be at home,” said Wei Liyao as she and her son landed at an airport in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, after flying there from Malaysia.
“I’ll bring my son to see his grandparents during the Spring Festival and then we plan to do some sightseeing,” said Wei.
Luo Xiaoyi, a traveler from Hubei Province, is touring around Xi’an, an ancient capital city in Shaanxi Province. Soon after China recalibrated COVID-19 control measures, Luo decided to restart his annual family travels.
“This trip matters a lot to our family and so we don’t cap the budget,” Luo said.
Data from online travel agency Group points to a surging demand for Spring Festival travels and sightseeing. Reservations for domestic group tours during the holiday, for instance, registered a yearly increase of 354 percent as of Jan. 15. –Agencies