Visitors take photos of panda Meng Lan at Beijing Zoo on Wednesday. Some visitors waited for hours before they could see the star attraction due to the crowd. (Photo by Ma Junxin/For China Daily)
Sector sees boom 'earlier than expected' as holiday visits exceed level of 2019
China's tourism industry is expected to experience a sustained recovery this year, after its best performance in the May Day holiday since COVID-19 hit the industry in 2019.
Over the five-day holiday, which started on Saturday, both domestic visits to tourist attractions and tourism-related revenue exceeded the numbers of the same period in 2019.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said on Wednesday evening that domestic destinations received 274 million visits over the holiday, a year-on-year rise of 70.8 percent and roughly a 20 percent rise from the same period of 2019. Tourism revenue was about 148 billion yuan ($21.4 billion), a rise of 0.66 percent from 2019.
According to online travel platform Trip.com Group, its users flew an average of 1,638 kilometers, the most in the last four years. Travel distance for bullet trains also grew to an average of 389 km during the holiday.
The group said the holiday saw the most prosperous outbound tourism market since 2019 thanks to the relaxed exit and entry policies following the relaxation of COVID-19 rules. According to Trip.com Group, bookings for overseas trips for the holiday rose eightfold year-on-year, and sales of flights to overseas destinations rose tenfold.
According to the National Immigration Administration, frontier inspection stations logged about 6.27 million exit and entry visits during the holiday, more than double the previous year. On April 30, exit and entry visits reached about 1.38 million, the highest after the nation downgraded management of COVID-19 on Jan 8.
Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy, said that the tourism industry is hitting a turning point for recovery much earlier than expected. He said the epidemic was well controlled after the Spring Festival holiday — a seven-day break in late January — and a series of healthcare, transport and tourism policies also secured a safe and orderly tourism market.
"The tourism industry remained in a stable recovery in the May Day holiday," he said.
Yu Dunde, CEO of travel portal Tuniu, said that the industry will continue to recover this year.
"The market has shown momentum for a stepwise recovery in the first three months, though people's desire to travel was affected by their busier work schedules and concerns about epidemic resurgence at the time. The May Day holiday saw people's surging traveling desire because of the warmer weather, loosening outbound travel policies and recovery of international flights in the second quarter," he said.
He added that people's desires for off-peak travel to long-distance and overseas destinations will be further unleashed with the recovery of international flights and price cuts for tours after the May Day holiday. The market is expected to embrace a larger boom in the third quarter with increasing family trips in summer generating enormous consumption.