The coming three-day Dragon Boat Festival holidays are expected to spark another year-on-year surge in domestic travel and tourism, adding to the spending passion that was kindled by the May Day holidays last month.
The holidays, together with summer vacation tourism, are poised to play a driving role for consumption growth in the second quarter, observers said.
This year's Dragon Boat Festival holidays, which fall from June 22-24, could be the most vibrant in the past five years, according to data from travel agencies and the national rail operator.
On Thursday, the first day that train tickets for the holiday went on sale, seats on popular routes were sold out within seconds, although it was not as difficult as securing tickets for the May Day holidays, Chinese online travel agency platform Qunar told the Global Times.
Popular destinations include Beijing, Shanghai, Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The China Railway Shanghai Bureau Group Co estimated that during this year's holidays, railway lines in the Yangtze River Delta area will carry about 15 million passengers, an increase of more than 20 percent from same period in 2019, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the hot sales of rail tickets, demand for air travel is also on the rise for the holidays.
On Thursday, searches for flight tickets to major destination cities jumped more than 50 percent from a week earlier. The search volume for tourist cities such as Haikou, capital of South China's Hainan Province, also jumped, with Xining in Northwest China's Qinghai Province rising by 81 percent.
Airfares are expected to be 20 percent lower than the May Day holidays, data from Qunar showed, thanks to the cut in fuel surcharges on domestic flights for a third time this year, which started from Monday.
Data from online travel agency Fliggy showed that as of Thursday, the number of train tickets booked for the first day and the day before the Dragon Boat Festival holidays had surged by more than 30 times compared with last year, with flight bookings jumping more than seven times.
"Following the hit performance during the May Day holidays, the upcoming Dragon Boat holidays are expected to be another catalyst to bolster domestic demand and consumption," Liu Ying, a research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.
The May Day holidays injected impetus into the economy in an efficient way, bringing a boom to the Chinese consumer market. A total of 274 million domestic trips were made during the holidays with domestic tourism revenue reaching 148.056 billion yuan ($21.42 billion), in both cases surpassing the 2019 pre-COVID levels, according to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The second quarter is expected to see a stronger economic rebound compared with the first quarter, when economic indicators exceeded expectations, Liu said.
GDP grew by 4.5 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier with consumption contributing around two-thirds of economic output, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.
"The features of first-quarter economic data are likely to continue for the remainder of the year," Liu said.
The contribution of consumption to GDP growth is estimated to maintain its current status in the second quarter at around 60 percent, Li Yong, a deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times.
In its Global Economic Prospects report released on Tuesday, the World Bank predicted that China's economy will grow at 5.6 percent this year, up by 1.3 percentage points from its January forecast, while it has adjusted down projections for most economies.