By ZEN SOO, Associated Press
HONG KONG (AP) — Some 637 million Chinese tourists took domestic trips during the eight-day Golden Week holiday, spending the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars at a time when China is seeking to boost consumer spending to stimulate the economy.
The holiday, which began Oct. 1, saw more than 45% of China’s population take trips within the country and spend 466.6 billion yuan ($69.5 billion), according to data from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. That marked a decline of 21% for domestic tourists from last year’s Golden Week and a 30% decline for spending.
Still the numbers show consumption is beginning to bounce back following the battering it took earlier in the year from the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel within the country, and sometimes even within cities, was restricted beginning with the Lunar New Year in January as China fought the spread of the coronavirus that emerged in the central city of Wuhan. During the five-day Labor Day holiday in May, domestic tourism revenue was down nearly 60% from the previous year.
“Chinese consumer confidence has been significantly recovered due to the proper control of pandemic, government pro-consumption policies and stimulus and faster than expected resumption of business activities,” said Jennifer Ye, PwC’s China consumer markets leader.
The Golden Week tourism and spending figures indicated domestic consumption was recovering well, especially as consumers engaged in “revenge buying” to make up for the previous months when they were unable to travel, she said.
With many Chinese tourists unable to travel abroad due to global travel restrictions, those who previously traveled to Hong Kong and South Korea for duty-free shopping turned to the southern Chinese island of Hainan instead, spending 530 million yuan ($78 million) at duty free shops during the first five days of the holiday, according to a report by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
The Chinese province raised duty-free shopping limits on July 1, hoping to attract domestic tourists and compete with shopping hubs in Europe and other parts of Asia.
China has reported no locally transmitted coronavirus infections since Aug. 16, and restrictions have been eased.
To boost domestic tourism, local governments and online travel platforms like Ctrip and Fliggy are offering tourists discounts on attraction tickets, hotels and tour packages.
According to a Ctrip report, the number of bookings for flights, private tours and attraction tickets on its platform was up 100% compared to the same time last year.
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