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The National Day Golden Week—which translates to 十一黄金周 (shí yī huáng jīn zhōu) in Chinese—commences on the first of October. As the name suggests, this day also marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This typically seven-day long holiday was created to boost the domestic tourism market and create reunion opportunities for family members who are normally miles apart. This year, as the Mid-Autumn Festival coincides with the National Day, the Chinese get to experience an eight-day long holiday.
What This Means For China’s Tourism Industry
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to batter global tourism, China has been banking on the Golden Week to revitalize it. The country is gearing up for a domestic travel spike during the National Day Golden Week, surpassing a total of 600 million trips—although there is a 20 percent plunge in revenue as compared to last year, when the tourism industry clocked US$9.5 billion.
On the domestic front, passenger flow on air travels has already returned to pre-COVID-19 levels at the end of August. According to South China Morning Post, the total number of domestic flight trips this year will exceed 15 million—which accounts for a 10 percent growth as compared to the previous year. This is spurred by the heightened standard of living in China, restraints on travel-hungry mainlanders from traveling internationally and the plunge in ticket costs.
Similar to the aviation industry, 12306.cn, the official booking site for China high-speed trains,experienced a spike in booking for its tickets. The tickets were seized within a span of a few hours after the presale period started. Moreover, it was forecasted that China’s railway will transport a total of 108 million passenger trips, with an average of 9.82 million trips per day. On China’s National Day, there would be an estimated total of 13 million trips, hitting a record high since the emergence of the pandemic.
As compared to the Golden Week in 2019, the demands for lavish hotels also rose, with up to a six-fold increase in hotspots such as Shanghai, Sanya and Chengdu. The prices of high-end hotels in Shanghai were also marked up by 20 percent.
While the long holiday will no doubt boost the country’s domestic tourism sector from the coronavirus-induced economic slump, not all businesses in this industry will benefit from this profiting pie. Travel agencies remain obsolete as the locals are familiar with navigating around the country and language barrier is no longer an issue when it comes to domestic online bookings.
Government Policies and Businesses’ Travel Promotions: Further Boost in Tourism Industry During Golden Week
After suffering from an unprecedented crisis in the tourism industry, China launched the National Consumption Promotion Month 2020 (9 September to 8 October 2020), which comprises cash vouchers and holiday discounts for over 100,000 businesses and 79 cities, and the reopening of more tourist attractions.
Hainan, a popular tourist destination located at the Southernmost point of China, is poised to experience a surge in inbound tourists after rolling out its new offshore duty-free policy in June. The government raised the shopping limit of each tourist per year by at least three times, from US$4,500 to US$14,700, and even expanded the list to include clothings, liquor, computers and phones. Just within the first month, the island recorded a total revenue of US$326 million, let alone the tourism boom during the Golden Week.
Since mid-September, major travel platforms have kick-started huge subsidy programs. For example, the “Ten Billion Subsidy” program by Fliggy (Alibaba’s travel-service platform), consists of massive discounts such as a buy-one-get-one-free plane ticket to Macau ahead of Golden Week. Five of the city’s high-end hotels—such as Ritz-Carlton and Zaha Hadid Architects-designed Morpheus—were snapped up after the travel curb for Chinese Mainlanders was lifted on 23 September 2020.
Competitors in the same field such as Tongcheng Travel and rip.com also launched similar promotions, namely the “One Billion Subsidy” program and “Members Travel Day” promotion event, respectively. The markdown in prices is one of the key drivers in setting a strong economic rebound for China, as evident from the average price of travel orders on rip.com exceeding US$925, which is a 70 percent increase from last year.
While the rest of the world is still conquering the novel coronavirus, China is poised to lead the recovery of the global tourism industry—though the country continues to impose its set of rigid pandemic-control regulations, fearing a rebound in the number of infectious cases.
Even with the strict measures implemented, a survey conducted by Rong360 Jianpu Technology noted that more than 50 percent of its respondents plan to scale up their expenditure over the long weekend, suggesting good prospects for China’s tourism industry. The “travel” carnival over the Golden Week will inarguably inject new momentum and be the pivotal propeller to the country’s post-COVID-19 recovery.