Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times
Recently, the upcoming five-day May Day holiday arrangement has sparked a heated discussion among Chinese netizens. Some of them called for an extra day off to make the holidays longer such as the seven-day National Day and Spring Festival holidays. Meanwhile, the fact that hotel rooms, plane tickets and train tickets are quickly sold out shows people’s strong desire to travel during the holidays, a sign that China’s cultural and tourism sectors are recovering from the COVID-19 epidemic.
May 1 was designated as an official one-day holiday from 1949 until 1999, when the holiday was extended to seven days, making it one of the three Golden Week holidays along with the aforementioned National Day (on October 1) and the Spring Festival. In 2008, another adjustment was made to shorten May Day to three official days, while adding a day off to each of two folk holidays, the Qingming Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.
These adjustments are closely related to China’s economic development and people’s increasing purchasing power. As the Chinese economy took off in the 1990s, one of the measures to expand domestic demand was to boost the cultural and tourism market. Under these circumstances, the State Council in 1999 first adjusted the official May Day holiday.
However, with further economic and social progress, China began to take traditional culture into serious consideration in determining holidays, highlighted by the inclusion of the Qingming Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.
The Qingming Festival is the day when people commemorate their ancestors, deceased family members, martyrs and leaders, or have an outing in early spring; The Dragon Boat Festival is the time at the beginning of summer when people compete or attend boat rowing competitions in memory of the ancient patriotic poet Qu Yuan. The adjustments for these two festivals drew thunderous applause. But the fact that the May Day holidays were reduced to three days comes at a price.
Past experience shows that too many long holidays would affect the country’s economic performance. If everyone were to travel during the seven-day holidays, it would cause problems such as traffic jams, strain on hotels and transport, and overcapacity at scenic spots, all situations that would cause a lot of complaints.
In this sense, shortening the May Day holidays is a very reasonable and wise decision. It is understandable that some people want to return to the previous seven-day holidays, but they must also take into account domestic conditions.
China is still a developing country, and the government is doing its best to provide people’s livelihood through development and solving various practical problems. But the problems have to be solved one by one. With China’s continued growth, Chinese people will continue to have more time to enjoy life and leisure.
With the May Day holidays approaching, train and plane tickets as well as hotel reservations for many tourist hotspots are already booked solid. According to a recent report, April 29 is expected to be peak travel with 395,000 passengers traveling throughout the day, a new record if the numbers prove correct.
Ctrip, one of China’s major travel platforms, shows that as of April 19, long-haul travel accounted for 70 percent of total bookings, up 6 percent from 2019. This shows that the Chinese people still have a strong desire to travel , which must be released.
Apart from visiting scenic spots, tourists have started exploring some new areas for cultural enrichment. For example, Jiangmen in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong became famous thanks to the hit TV drama Knockout aired during the Spring Festival. According to reports, locations in the city where the show was filmed attracted 2.54 million visitors during the Spring Festival, an increase of 34.4 percent year-on-year. The city now expects a total of 15 million visitors for the entire year.
Therefore, no matter whether the May Day holiday lasts for five days or seven days, we can clearly see the strong desire of Chinese people to travel and enjoy life. This shows that China’s tourism and cultural industries have resumed normal operations and are flourishing again.