Thailand, Japan and the U.S. among most popular destinations
Some 6 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad during the upcoming Spring Festival holidays, a record high for a weeklong holiday, according to a report by the online travel agency Ctrip.
"China's Spring Festival holidays from January 27 to February 2 will be a global Golden Week, with an estimated 6 million Chinese traveling overseas," the company said in a report sent to the Global Times on Tuesday.
The 10 most popular destinations include Thailand, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. South Korea fell to seventh from third in 2015, according to the report.
Given the unstable political situation in South Korea and the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Chinese enthusiasm for that country has cooled, Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
However, the number of Chinese traveling to Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, is on the rise mainly due to low costs and geographical advantage, he said.
Besides, bookings for farther destinations have peaked, with the U.S. and Australia as the most popular, according to the report. For example, U.S. travel packages for NBA games, outlet shopping or visits to Hawaii are popular.
Although it costs more to travel during the peak season, prices are about the same as they were last year, the report noted. That's due to an increase in the number of flights, advanced purchase of travel packages and travel agency discounts.
The cost of traveling to Thailand, the U.S. and the Philippines is 5 to 15 percent higher than last year. However, it's cheaper to travel to South Korea, Singapore and Italy, down 10-30 percent from the previous year, said the report.
This is mainly the result of market adjustments, according to Zhang. "Prices remain a major factor for tourists. Besides South Korea, packages to Japan and Taiwan may also be reduced," he explained.
Easier visa application requirements, more flights and lower prices have induced overseas travel, according to the report.
The number of Chinese booking for trips overseas is about four times higher than for domestic travel, data from Ctrip shows.
A Beijing resident surnamed Xie told the Global Times on Wednesday that he plans to visit Japan with his parents during the coming holidays. "Though it costs much higher than the low season, the Spring Festival holidays is a valuable time for our family to get together," he said.
More favorable visa policies toward Chinese will be implemented by the end of the year.
"After the U.S., Canada and Singapore granted 10-year visas to Chinese, Israel and Australia followed suit. In addition, Thailand reduced its visa fees for Chinese visitors in December, January and February," a travel agent surnamed Chen at domestic online travel agency lümama.com, said in a statement sent to the Global Times.
The National Development and Reform Commission and National Tourism Administration issued a joint statement Wednesday to implement key travel and leisure projects, actively guide social capital into the tourism industry, continuously improve infrastructure and the public service system and enhance travel packages and services to embrace the coming era of mass tourism and leisure.
The aim is to boost travel consumption to 7 trillion yuan by 2020, contributing more than 10 percent to national economic growth, said the statement posted on their websites.