Chinese tourists packed popular sites as travel rebounded to pre-pandemic levels during a recent eight-day national holiday, providing a temporary boost to China’s struggling economy.
According to the government, tourism revenues reached about 753 billion yuan ($103 billion) during the combined Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday period that ended on Friday. This marked a 1.5% increase compared to 2019 and a significant 130% increase compared to last year when pandemic restrictions were still in place.
Unlike most other countries, China implemented strict lockdowns and other restrictions for a longer period of time. The country didn’t lift its “zero-COVID” policy until December 2020. However, the expected surge in consumer spending after the lifting of restrictions hasn’t materialized. The Chinese remain cautious due to an ongoing real estate crisis and a youth unemployment rate of over 20%.
Nevertheless, this didn’t deter tourists from visiting popular destinations such as the Great Wall and shopping streets in Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities. Many tourists didn’t wear masks and crowded together in night markets and other crowded areas.
During the holiday, planes and high-speed trains were heavily booked. The tourism ministry reported that there were 826 million domestic trips, a 4.1% increase from 2019 and a 71.3% increase from last year.
Domestic tourism benefited from the slower recovery in international travel as people chose to travel within the country. The number of flights to and from China is still below pre-pandemic levels, and reports of overseas crimes and scams may be deterring some from traveling abroad.
PHOTOS: China’s flagging economy gets a temporary boost as holiday travel returns to pre-pandemic levels
China’s border authorities processed 11.8 million entries and exits during the recent holiday, nearly triple the number from last year when quarantine measures were still in place. However, this only represents 85% of the total in 2019, according to the National Immigration Administration.
Booking agency Trip.com reported that outbound travel volume during the holiday was more than eight times higher than in 2022. Popular destinations included Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea. Additionally, there was an increase in travel to more distant countries such as Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and France compared to the last major national holiday in May.
China’s economy has shown signs of a possible recovery from the impact of the pandemic. It recorded its first expansion in factory activity in six months.