The highly anticipated reopening of the scenic Duku Highway in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Sunday sparked a surge in tourism during the Dragon Boat Festival.
The 561-kilometer highway, which links the highly scenic section between Karamay city's Dushanzi to Kuqa city, reopened to traffic on Sunday after being closed for about half a year due to thick snow and ice.
For visitors to Xinjiang, the scenic road, which previously opened for about four months a year, offers a unique chance to experience all four seasons in one day. The opening of the highway attracted many people from all over China.
The air was "filled with excitement and joy" as people gathered to witness the momentous occasion, a tourist surnamed Wang, who was among the first batch of travelers hitting the road, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"Many people were anticipating the opening of this picturesque road, which is a journey worth taking," Wang said.
As a result of the opening, many nearby scenic areas have seen a surge in demand for accommodations. Among them, the Narat scenic spot, a popular destination along the route, has already sold out 66 percent of its lodging options for the Dragon Boat Festival, according to a search on online booking platforms.
Wu Bin, a local tour guide in Xinjiang, told the Global Times that several popular attractions have imposed daily visitor limits, and long queues have formed at the entrances of many scenic areas.
"There has been an influx of tourists in Xinjiang since June. Only the earliest guests every morning can enter, and those who come a little later may be restricted at some scenic spots and wait on 'endless' lines," Wu said.
Also, costs for accommodation and transportation have increased due to the high demand. "Cars are in short supply. The same goes for hotels, with prices fluctuating frequently," Wu said.
In order to cope with the peak tourist flow, the Xinjiang regional government and traffic police have prepared solutions for traffic congestion and tourist diversion, adding temporary parking spaces and make-shift toilets, and installed new-energy vehicle charging piles along the Duku Highway, the state broadcaster CCTV reported.
According to travel data from Mafengwo, searches for Xinjiang have increased by more than 400 percent last week as long distance "loop trips" in western China has gained popularity.
From January to April, Xinjiang received 51.2 million tourists, up 29.6 percent year-on-year, with total tourism revenue rising 60.6 percent to reach 42.64 billion yuan ($5.49 billion), local news portal ts.cn reported.
Road tours to West China have also gained appeal. Data from Meituan-Dianping showed that searches for road tours during the Dragon Boat Festival increased by 650 percent year-on-year in the past week, with trips to Northwest China's Gansu Province and Qinghai Province, and Southwest China's Yunnan Province becoming popular destinations.
Bookings for the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday period have increased by nearly 600 percent compared with last year, including hotel bookings, homestays, attraction tickets, and transportation, data from Meituan-Dianping showed.