Tomorrow is the night that Chinese believe the full moon is at its brightest, shining on farmers for the mid-Autumn harvest. To celebrate, many of China’s 1.4 billion people will have hung lanterns and gifted sweet mooncakes filled with red-bean or lotus-seed paste. It is also the beginning of the much-anticipated 8-day national holiday.
The October Golden Week is the biggest leisure holiday of the year, and the first major holiday since the outbreak. It is also a barometer for Chinese consumer confidence.
Chinese are expected to take over 400 million highway trips over the Golden Week, slightly up from last year. Car trips were always going to be popular after a major epidemic, as travellers seek private vehicles as a safer alternative to public transport – reflected by accelerating car sales over the past couple of months.
Whilst many consumers are investing in expensive cars and license plates to ensure their safety, others are lured by cheap deals and convenience to squeeze into the belly of an Airbus with hundreds of others. More than 15 million domestic flights will be taken during 1-8 October – 1.5 million more than last year, in a new record for China. But discounts and promotions have seen pre-booking prices for airfares falling 10% on last year’s Golden Week to ¥895.55 ($132), the lowest in five years.
Despite the increased flights and road trips, coupled with the many indicators of China returning to near-normal, just 600 million trips are expected happen this Golden Week – less than 80% of the 782 million trips made during last year’s festival. This hasn’t been helped by the Culture and Tourism Ministry ordering tourist sites to limit capacity to 75% over Golden Week. And one of the big risers in tourism pre-Covid, family travel, is likely to be subdued due to many schools telling students not leave their cities during the holiday. Similarly, travellers are seeking smaller groups for group travel. To appease some of these concerns, operators continue to appeal to Chinese consumers’ safety concerns, promoting their clean environment and sanitation more than ever, and destinations with wide open spaces have been more popular.
The seven million international travellers from Golden Week last year will be staying put. However, as a small, positive sign that Beijing may start to open up Covid-free destinations outside of the Mainland for Chinese travellers, Macau will be seeing Chinese visitors en masse from today after a month without a case, supported by $22 million of promotions on Trip.com.
For those Chinese who are staying put, there is hope that they will help bolster the sluggish entertainment and hospitality scene. With most of China’s 70,000 movie screens showing films again, and a host of appealing titles including this year’s biggest global box office hit so far, The Eight Hundred, things are finally looking up for cinemas in China.
Most of us at China Skinny are looking forward to getting away for a holiday ourselves, so our office is closed for the week, however we will have a small team on if you need to contact us with any urgent requests or needs. There’ll be no newsletter next Wednesday, but we’ll be back on the 14 October. If you’re in China, have a great break and don’t eat too many mooncakes. See you on the other side.
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