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Golden Week: Chinese seek cheap wanderlust in economic gloom

by Reporter - Sep 24 138 Views 0 Comment
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China's gloomy economy has not dampened its people's wanderlust.


It is seeing record travel for the annual "Golden Week" holiday despite slow growthhigh youth unemployment and a property market in crisis.


More than 21 million people will fly during the 10-day break, which began on Friday, according to China's civil aviation regulator.


That includes 14,000 domestic flights a day as young Chinese on a shoestring budget looking to explore closer to home.


This Golden Week - where the annual mid-autumn festival happened to coincide with National Day celebrations - has turned into the year's longest break. It's the second Golden Week holiday this year, following a shorter break in May. But with China's economy showing no major signs of recovery since then, businesses are hopeful but wary.


And travellers are tightening their purse strings - young Chinese, who are eager to kick off more "revenge travel" after prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns, have been taking to social media to swap advice on how to make the most of the holiday.


Gaoyang, for instance, said he plans to cover nine Chinese cities, clocking 6000km between all of them, in just eight days. He considers himself a "special forces traveller", a term for roughing it out so you can run through a packed yet cheap holiday schedule. Gaoyang's itinerary involves scaling four mountains.


Others have flooded their feeds with hour-by-hour itineraries, detailed breakdowns of their budget and recommendations for affordable places to eat. A hashtag challenging people to "trek from China's south to north" was widely discussed on Weibo while other popular topics included "budget travel" and "travelling on a whim".



China's national railway said it plans to run 12,000-odd trains each day over the holiday - a 20% jump on an average day otherwise - to meet the increased demand. Domestic travel bookings - for air and train tickets, hotel reservations and tour packages - for Golden Week surged by 88% compared to the previous week, according to online travel agency Trip.com. And they are up by more than four times compared to the same period last year.


Top domestic destinations include Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hangzhou, which is currently hosting the Asian Games. Cities in the northwest, known for their scenic autumn landscapes, like Burqin and Urumqi in Xinjiang, are also expecting more tourists, according to Trip.com.


But the average spend per traveller may not stack up against the increased traffic, warns Gary Bowerman, director of travel marketing firm Check-in Asia. He said the spending had been lower than forecast during the last Golden Week break in May when domestic travel had rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.


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