China Golden Week holiday pumps up tourism, boon to economy

HONG KONG (AP) – Some 637 million residents of China travelled 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 per cent of China’s 1.4 billion people traveled during the holiday, which began on October 1. They spent CNY466.6 billion (USD69.5 billion), according to data from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

That’s 21 per cent fewer trips and 30 per cent 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 Managing Director of Research and Consulting Firm Frost & Sullivan in Asia Pacific Shivaji Das.

Fewer people travelled and those who did spent less out of caution over the pandemic, which has waned in China but not elsewhere.

A worker waters a floral display setup for the Chinese National Day in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

“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 Laubour Day holiday in May, domestic tourism revenue was down nearly 60 per cent 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 PwC’s China Consumer Markets Leader Jennifer Ye.

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 travelled to Hong Kong and South Korea for duty-free shopping turned to the southern Chinese island of Hainan instead, spending CNY530 million (USD78 million) at duty free shops during the first five days of the holiday, according to a report by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.