○ Trips from small cities to larger ones before Chinese New Year often enjoy wide-ranging discounts
○ Some still reluctant to bring parents over, preferring tradition of going back home
○ Married couples have to tackle annual dilemma of which family to visit
The Spring Festival travel rush, the biggest annual human migration in the world, is under way in China, but Dong Liangjian (pseudonym), from Xiangtan, Central China's Hunan Province, now working in Guangzhou, is glad to not be part of it this year. Instead, he has asked his parents to travel to Guangzhou for the family reunion.
Dong is one of a growing number of younger-generation Chinese who will ask their parents to travel to the cities where they work in, mostly in first- and second-tier cities, rather than visiting their hometown, in a new trend called "reverse Spring Festival travel."
For Dong, asking his parents over saves him from having to face the trials and tribulations of the Spring Festival travel rush, which often includes having to set an alarm clock early to grab railway tickets and standing for hours in overcrowded trains.
"It's much easier for my parents to come to Guangzhou than me going to Xiangtan as there are lots of tickets for trains coming to Guangzhou. Guangzhou is also better for them in the winter because it's warmer. They can stay here for as long as they want and there is no need to rush back for work," Dong, 33, who's married and works at a trading company, told the Global Times.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese return to their hometowns every year for the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, family reunions, thus forming the Spring Festival travel rush. The Spring Festival, or the Year of the Pig in the Chinese lunar calendar, has started on February 5 this year. The 40-day 2019 Spring Festival travel rush started on January 21, with 3 billion trips expected to be made.
This Spring Festival, travelers are expected to make 2.99 billion trips, up 0.6 percent from the year before, according to the Xinhua News Agency. But the number of passengers traveling in the opposite direction of high demand routes has been increasing at an annual rate of about 9 percent for the past four years, Li Wenxin, a vice-general manager at China Railway Corp, said at a recent press conference.
Lower travel costs and less hassle are the major reasons why a growing number of people have chosen to ask their parents to travel to the cities they work in.
A search of online travel agencies shows that a week before the Spring Festival, airfares from top-tier cities to destinations like Harbin, Chengdu and Xi'an are all going at full price. However, tickets to Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen from smaller cities enjoy discounts of between 10 and 50 percent.
Statistics from online travel agencies show that orders for standard tickets to first-tier cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen before the Spring Festival have increased 40 percent year-on-year, according to Beijing Business Today.
Li said China Railway Corp is also offering as much as a 35 percent discount to routes that are not traditionally in hot demand during the Spring Festival.
He added that the railway company is happy to see this new trend, as it means better utilization of railway capacity, more balanced passenger numbers on trains going in opposite directions, and smoother travel during the Spring Festival.
Not everyone, however, enjoys the idea of asking their parents over. Some people think they will not be able to accommodate their parents well in top-tier cities during the Chinese New Year, while others prefer the tradition of going back to the hometown for the festival.
Winnie Sun, a 31-year-old public relations officer from East China's Shandong Province now working in Beijing, said she would only consider asking her parents over for Spring Festival if she owned her own apartment in the capital city. "I rent a small studio apartment in Beijing, and I can't imagine bringing my parents here because it would be so crowded. In comparison, my parents' home in our hometown is much bigger and cozier. Besides, I come from a big family so there are a lot of relatives to visit during the Spring Festival," she told the Global Times.
A man surnamed Song from East China's Anhui Province said he used to ask his parents to come to the city he worked in, but his parents weren't interested in shopping and sightseeing there, and would rather have been with relatives and old friends during the Spring Festival. "My parents weren't so happy that Spring Festival," he told Wuhu News.