Chinese residents’ enthusiasm for travel and leisure during the recent eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday has provided a compelling glimpse into the strength of the nation’s consumption demand. This surge in holiday activities showcases the resilience of the Chinese consumer market and its potential to further contribute to economic recovery and growth.
A frenzy of travel and consumption
The annual National Day holiday, colloquially referred to as “golden week” in China, typically spans seven days. This year, it was exceptionally extended to eight days, running from September 29 to October 6. This extended holiday period, coupled with the easing of travel restrictions prompted by the waning impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reignited people’s passion for travel and leisure pursuits.
During this eight-day holiday, Chinese citizens embarked on a remarkable 826 million domestic tourist trips, marking a significant 71.3 percent increase from the previous year and a 4.1 percent increase compared to 2019, as reported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The tourism sector’s total revenue during this period surged by an impressive 129.5 percent year-on-year, reaching 753.4 billion yuan (approximately 103.2 billion U.S. dollars).
Various regions across China experienced an influx of tourists. For instance, in Sichuan Province, over 29 million trips were recorded during the first six days of the holiday, showcasing a remarkable 202 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year. Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province, witnessed an upsurge in tourists due to its hosting of the 19th Asian Games, attracting visitors interested in both its picturesque West Lake and sporting events. As of Wednesday, ticket revenue from the Games exceeded 600 million yuan.
This surge in tourism resulted in heightened demand for flights, train tickets, hotel accommodations, dining, and retail purchases. The data reveals that over 52 million trips were undertaken daily, encompassing rail, highway, water, and civil aviation, representing a year-on-year increase of more than 50 percent.
In addition to well-known scenic destinations, duty-free shops in Hainan Province, particularly the capital city of Haikou, experienced a significant boost in offshore duty-free sales, surging by 94.2 percent year-on-year, recording 1.01 billion yuan in sales during the first six days of the holiday.
Even those who chose not to travel far from home found ways to participate in the festive atmosphere. Cinemas reported a surge in attendance, driving the national box office to surpass 2.5 billion yuan. E-commerce platforms, coffee chains, and supermarkets capitalized on the holiday spirit, offering enticing discounts and coupons that further contributed to increased consumption.
According to Meituan, an online platform, average daily spending on service retail sales soared by an astonishing 153 percent compared to the same period in 2019, making this year’s “golden week” one of the most vibrant in the past five years.
The thriving holiday economy, augmented consumer confidence, and record-breaking spending patterns have further solidified the role of consumption as a primary driver of economic growth, as noted by Li Jiwei, deputy dean of Meituan Research Institute.
Boosting growth at home and abroad
Experts anticipate that the robust holiday season will catalyze China’s economic growth. Chen Li, chief economist of Chuancai Securities, anticipates a brisker pace of recovery in the consumer market during the fourth quarter, partially attributed to the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, as well as the forthcoming “Double 11” online shopping festival.
This holiday fervor has not only fueled domestic tourism but has also transcended international borders. This holiday marked the first extended break since Chinese travel agencies resumed offering group tours to a more extensive list of countries and regions in August. Additionally, visa exemptions granted to Chinese tourists by countries such as Thailand have significantly boosted international travel from China.
Trip.com, a prominent Chinese online travel agency, reported an extraordinary surge in outbound tourism, with bookings increasing nearly 20 times compared to the previous year. Popular destinations included Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and Britain.
Analysts anticipate that the hundreds of millions of Chinese travelers will bolster industries related to local tourism and shopping, providing a considerable boon to global economic growth.
The recent holiday consumption boom in China provides compelling evidence of the country’s robust consumer market and its potential to drive economic recovery and growth. As citizens flocked to domestic and international destinations, spending on various sectors surged, solidifying consumption as a primary engine for economic growth. This phenomenon bodes well for both domestic and global economic prospects, showcasing the resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy in the post-pandemic era.