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Millions of Chinese people are travelling across the country in a bout of “revenge tourism” after almost a year of quarantines, lockdowns and restrictions on their movement.
China’s ministry of culture and tourism expects around 550 million residents will make trips within the country during the eight-day public holiday marking both the mid-autumn festival and China’s national day.
Photos posted on social media on Tuesday, the first day of the national holiday, showed tourist spots crowded with visitors and train stations busy with harried passengers. On forums, internet users complained that hotels and tickets for tourist sites were sold out or that traffic had made it impossible to move. “Congestion is unavoidable,” one commentator said on Weibo. “It’s best to stay home.”
Hotel bookings for popular destinations like Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan province or Sanya in Hainan, an island in the south, doubled according to the travel booking site Qunar. Travel sites have fought for customers with discounts while airlines have added new routes to meet demand. More than 500 scenic locations across the country are giving free admission or discounts to visitors.
Officials are keen to encourage this pent-up demand, described by state media as “revenge tourism” or “revenge travel” during the annual public holiday known as Golden Week, traditionally a prime time for travel and spending. Spending during the next eight days will be a key indicator of China’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state-run newspaper Economic Information Daily described this year’ holiday as a “critical battle” for the tourism industry. Commentators say it marks the beginning of “revenge spending” by Chinese consumers.
“After more than half a year of prevention work and epidemic control, the holidays will see a truly ‘national movement,’ Xu Xiaolei, manager of marketing at a travel operator called CYTS Tours, told the state-run Global Times.
Officials have pinned their hopes of economic recovery on Chinese consumers, part of the “dual circulation” policy promoted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a way to insulate the country from trade disputes and other external risks.
While China has largely contained the virus with no new locally transmitted cases in almost two months, the effects of months of paralysis still linger, with many residents short on cash or out of work.
The volume of domestic tourism that officials anticipate for this year’s Golden Week still falls short of last year, when almost 800 million people travelled across the country. Some residents said they would not be going anywhere. On Weibo, one user said: “I also want to revenge [travel] but I have no money.”