China’s tourist sites are bracing for a travel spending spree next week as people break out of home for the holidays.
October 1 marks the start of the eight-day “golden week” break that this year not only includes National Day but also the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Thursday.
Authorities have reminded holidaymakers to be vigilant against the coronavirus but more than 600 million trips are still expected to be made throughout China, down from the 782 million trips made last year, according to travel agency Trip.com.
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“The desire has been pent up for nine months, and is likely to erupt in these eight days,” a company spokesman said.
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The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that the public could travel within the country given that most of China is classified as low risk – mainland China has not reported any locally transmitted Covid-19 cases for more than a month.
But health authorities have warned people to avoid any unnecessary international trips with the pandemic still spreading around the world.
They also reminded holidaymakers to follow coronavirus prevention protocols – wear masks, wash hands, avoid crowds and maintain social distancing.
And from Wednesday, mainland residents can add Macau – which has not had a coronavirus case in more than a month – to their itineraries, according to the National Immigration Administration.
China keeps guard up with travel warning as tourist industry prepares for first post-coronavirus holiday season
Cities and businesses across the country are hoping to capitalise on the desire to get out and about, offering all kinds of incentives from travel coupons to free admission at tourist sites to lure travellers their way.
Among the most popular domestic destinations are expected to be the traditional favourites of Sanya, Lijiang, Xiamen, Xian and Chengdu.
But the country’s vast northwest is also rising in popularity, with Trip.com reporting a more than fourfold increase in searches for the region in September. Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, was fourth on the list of searches for mainland cities on the site.
“People cannot travel abroad, so they have turned their eyes to [domestic] destinations, which were only popular among a small group of people before or where they can spend more time,” the company said, adding that people were expected to travel further and stay longer on the trips.
“There’s a new trend of travelling across half of China for this holiday.”
Inquiries and bookings for the northwest have also increased at Lvmama.com, another travel website.
“People have shifted from making overseas trips to domestic long-distance ones,” company chairman Wang Xiaosong said. “The unique natural landscape in China’s northwest, diverse cultural and folk traditions, and the colourful autumn foliage are attractive to many tourists.”
Kuailiu Travel Agency, located in Xining, capital of northwestern Qinghai province, reported that bookings for the holiday had doubled and the company had to take on extra staff this month to handle the surge.
“People will go to areas around Qinghai Lake and may also make trips to nearby Gansu province,” said a company manager who identified himself as Qiangzi. “Although the demand is higher this year, prices will remain about the same as in previous years.”
But most of the people booking trips this year were adults, he said, with fewer families travelling because of school restrictions.
“Many schools told students not to leave their city [during the holiday],” Qiangzi said. “We hope the situation will turn better when the winter break comes.”
One of those schools was a primary school in Shanghai’s Putuo district, which told parents that travel was forbidden during the break.
“If you have to leave for special reasons, you should report to the school first. When you return, you should be isolated for 14 days [for quarantine],” the school said.
Among those staying put is Ye Min, a father of two primary school pupils in Shanghai.
Ye said his family would stay in the city for the entire holiday.
“We will visit parks, cook and watch movies at home,” he said. “Anyway, I am under high pressure at work and can have a good rest during this holiday.”
Chen Xiaoyan, a mother of two young boys in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, is also not leaving home.
“I’ll just stay home for all eight days. I’m not interested in tourist spots in Wuxi. And it’s not safe to go to places where there are a lot of people,” she said.
But in Sichuan province in the country’s southwest, Doris Zhang, whose son is in grade one at a primary school in Chengdu, said her family would go to Guergou, a scenic area about 230km (143 miles) away.
“We were told [by the teachers] not to leave Sichuan. So it’s fine to go to places outside Chengdu but within the province,” she said.
“The teacher strongly advised us not to travel during the National Day holiday because of the pandemic. I have been thinking about this for some time and finally decided we should still travel,” Zhang said. “Otherwise, it will be extremely boring.”
Additional reporting by Phoebe Zhang
More from South China Morning Post:
- China keeps guard up with travel warning as tourist industry prepares for first post-coronavirus holiday season
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- Macau hotels and casinos look forward to upcoming golden week holiday as travel restrictions with China are eased
- Next stop: Croatia. Chinese travellers skip Hong Kong for niche destinations over National Day break
This article Ready. Set. Holiday: China’s golden week travellers head for wide open spaces first appeared on South China Morning Post