HONG KONG – Some 637 million residents of China traveled inside their country during the recent eight-day Golden Week holiday, spending tens of billions of dollars at a time when officials hope to get consumers to spend more and perk up the economy.
More than 45% of China's 1.4 billion people traveled during the holiday, which began Oct. 1. They spent 466.6 billion yuan ($69.5 billion), according to data from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
That's 21% fewer trips and 30% less spending than last year, but the numbers show consumption is beginning to bounce back following the battering it took earlier in the year from the coronavirus pandemic.
The numbers are a “positive sign” both for China and the rest of the world that economies can revive pretty quickly once the coronavirus is under control, said Shivaji Das, managing director of research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in Asia Pacific.
Fewer people traveled and those who did spent less out of caution over the pandemic, which has waned in China but not elsewhere.
“Many people have lost income or were without jobs during the worst times of the pandemic so people are trying to be more careful from a financial perspective,” he said.
Travel within China, and sometimes even within cities, was restricted beginning with the Lunar New Year in late January as China fought the spread of the coronavirus that emerged in the central city of Wuhan. During the five-day Labor Day holiday in May, domestic tourism revenue was down nearly 60% from the previous year.
“Chinese consumer confidence has been significantly recovered due to the proper control of pandemic, government pro-consumption policies and stimulus and faster than expected resumption of business activities,” said Jennifer Ye, PwC’s China consumer markets leader.
The Golden Week tourism and spending figures indicate domestic consumption is recovering, partly due to so-called “revenge buying” to make up for the previous months when people were unable to travel, she said.
With many Chinese tourists unable to travel abroad due to global restrictions, those who previously traveled to Hong Kong and South Korea for duty-free shopping turned to the southern Chinese island of Hainan instead, spending 530 million yuan ($78 million) at duty free shops during the first five days of the holiday, according to a report by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
The Chinese province raised duty-free shopping limits on July 1, hoping to attract domestic tourists and compete with shopping hubs in Europe and other parts of Asia.
China has reported no locally transmitted coronavirus infections since Aug. 16, and restrictions have been eased.
To boost domestic tourism, local governments and online travel platforms like Ctrip and Fliggy are offering discounts on attraction tickets, hotels and tour packages.
According to a Ctrip report, the number of bookings for flights, private tours and attraction tickets on its platform was up 100% compared to the same time last year.