- China’s big Golden Week holiday has seen domestic tourism recover to pre-pandemic levels, while overseas travel has yet to fully recover.
- On a per capita basis, domestic tourism spending returned to 98% of 2019 levels, much higher than the 85% figure seen during the holidays earlier in the year, Morgan Stanley analysts said.
- The boom in Chinese tourism comes as the country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed, partly dampened by a slump in the property market.
Passengers return from Nanjing Railway Station in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, 6 October 2023.
Nurphoto | Getty Images
BEIJING — China’s big Golden Week holiday has seen domestic tourism recover to pre-pandemic levels, while overseas travel has yet to fully recover, according to official data.
Those numbers for the eight-day holiday, which ended on Friday, were also lower than the government’s initial projections.
Golden Week domestic tourism revenue was 753.43 billion yuan ($103.24 billion), a 1.5 percent increase over 2019, according to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The number of domestic tourist trips rose 4.1 percent from 2019 to 826 million during the latest eight-day holiday, the ministry said.
Both figures were lower than what Chinese state media had earlier quoted the ministry as forecasting: 896 million trips and 782.5 billion yuan in domestic tourism revenue.
However, the final tourism receipts figure still marked a rebound to 2019 levels for the first time since China lifted its Covid-19 restrictions late last year, Morgan Stanley’s chief China economist Robin Sin and team said in a note in Friday.
They added that on a per capita basis, spending returned to 98% of 2019 levels, much higher than the 85% figure seen during the holidays earlier in the year.
“This is likely due to the exceptionally long Golden Week holiday (eight days versus the usual seven), which encouraged long-haul travel and thus increased average spending,” Morgan Stanley analysts said.
This year, the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and the October 1 National Day were close enough that Beijing declared an eight-day holiday from Friday, September 29 to Friday, October 6, the official dates of this year’s Golden Week.
This meant that the following Saturday and Sunday were officially working days, but some businesses did not resume work until Monday.
In a country where businesses typically provide only a few days of paid leave, the week-plus holiday also meant more people chose to travel abroad.
The National Immigration Administration recorded about 11.8 million trips in and out of mainland China during the holiday, for a daily average of nearly 1.5 million trips — that’s 85.1% of 2019 levels.
This is also below earlier estimates reported by state media, which predicted nearly 1.6 million trips across the border per day.
Chinese travel booking site Trip.com Group reported that outbound travel during the holiday increased more than eightfold from a year earlier, with people in their 20s and early 30s accounting for nearly 30% of these travelers.
Top destinations include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, Trip.com said. It noted that Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and France saw the fastest growth in tourist numbers compared to China’s Labor Day holiday in May.
Trip.com did not provide comparisons to 2019. CEO Jane Sun previously told CNBC’s Eunice Yun that long wait times for visa applications — such as two to six months to visit Europe — prevent people in China from travel abroad as much as they would. i like yes.
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The boom in Chinese tourism comes as the country’s recovery from the pandemic has slowed, dragged down in part by a slump in the property market.
“National Day tourism golden week figures, along with services still over 50 September [purchasing managers indexes]suggest that the recovery in services has slowed but is ongoing,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note on Sunday.
“We believe that further policy easing will be needed for further recovery in consumption and services, especially given the continued decline in property and still-undermining confidence,” the report said.
Analysts maintained their forecast for China’s GDP growth of 5.4% for the year.