A record number of Chinese are choosing to travel at home this Golden Week holiday, potentially boosting domestic consumption but disappointing travel agents who have been waiting for big-spending tourists to go back abroad since the pandemic ended.
The nation celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day from Friday to October 6 in the longest public holiday this year.
The break traditionally sees an overseas exodus of middle-class Chinese as well as bumper domestic travel, with millions of people, mostly labourers and factory workers, returning to their home villages.
But as the economy struggles to recover after the pandemic, previous holidays this year have disappointed in terms of spending per person, as a weak job market and low incomes hurt consumer spending.
More Chinese are still reluctant to spend on nice-to-haves such as overseas holidays, but how much they do spend domestically during this holiday will be a key gauge of consumer appetite, a crucial component for the long-term growth potential of the world's second-largest economy.
"It's not wise to spend so much money," said Beijing tech industry employee Joe Zhang, who will travel within China this holiday after high ticket prices scuppered his plans to go to Japan. "I'm disappointed. I haven't been abroad in three years," the 27-year-old added.
The China Tourism Academy, part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, estimates people will make more than 100 million trips a day during "the most popular Golden Week in history".
Trains are expected to be packed and the average number of daily flights is also a fifth higher than the 2019 holiday, according to flight app Umetrip.
The Spring Festival break earlier this year was the first big holiday since the end of nationwide Covid-19 curbs, but travel was muted due to an outbreak of the virus.
While the data points towards a resurgence in domestic tourism, the outbound market has only recovered to about 60 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, said Boon Sian Chai, managing director and vice-president of international markets for Trip.com, China's largest online travel platform.
Cost is a major deciding factor, as the average price of international flights from China are up to 30 percent higher than before the pandemic, partly because airlines have yet to resume their pre-Covid schedules, Boon added. (Reuters)