China: new year, more travel

Domestic travel by Chinese citizens shot up during the first three days of the current lunar New Year holiday, demonstrating continued consumer confidence in China despite the slight economic slowdown.

Figures from the National Tourism Administration showed that provinces popular with tourists saw increases of 10 to 55 per cent in trips made between January 22-24, the first three days of the spring festival holiday, over the same period a year earlier. The China Tourism Academy predicts that domestic trips during this year’s week-long spring festival will total 185m, up 21 per cent from the 2011 figure, driving Chinese new year tourism revenues to Rmb100bn ($15.9bn).

Trips made for tourism are a small proportion of total lunar new year travel, most of which involve journeys home to visit family. Total travel is estimated at 3bn trips between early January and mid-February, the period when many migrant workers take their annual home leave.

Dai Zheng, Vice President of qunar.com, a popular travel website in China, says Chinese people are showing signs of greater frugality when it comes to what he calls “daily consumption” – but they are not cutting the travel budget. “Some people feel they cannot afford to purchase an apartment, so why not spend more on travelling? At least that way they can make themselves happy,” he told beyondbrics.

Beijing will be pleased too, to find the Chinese boosting domestic consumption, in line with government priorities, while easing pressure on the property market.

Additional reporting by Shirley Chen in Shanghai

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