China's travel thaw seen for May Day holidays

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/26 20:55:46

Overall recovery still far off as outbound trips frozen

People visit a commercial street near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda scenic spot in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, April 23, 2020. The commercial street featuring Tang Dynasty style elements and rich cultural characteristics, has become a tourism landmark in Xi'an. (Xinhua/Zhang Bowen)

China's tourism industry, which froze during the coronavirus outbreak, should thaw during the upcoming five-day May Day holidays starting on May 1, although industry sources expect a 10-20 percent year-on-year drop in the number of trips as the impact of the epidemic lingers.

Most of them see a mixed picture for the sector. Domestic travel is on the road to recovery, but it's taking longer time than expected and the full-year outlook is bleak.

In a report sent by online travel platform Ctrip to the Global Times, the company predicted the upcoming May Day holiday will mark "the first peak" for travel in 2020, with travel numbers doubling those of the Qingming Festival holiday in April. 

Chinese people made about 43 million trips during the Qingming holiday week in early April, according to a report by the China Tourism Academy.

There are already positive signs, with some guided tours on Ctrip sold out for the May Day holiday, while searches for May Day holiday tours rose at a weekly average of 90 percent on Alibaba's travel service platform during the past three weeks.

Chinese people want to travel after being confined to their homes by the coronavirus for months, some said. 

"I've been locked down at home for a long time because of the virus and I want to enjoy a diversion during the May Day holiday," said a Shanghai resident surnamed Huang who is planning a trip to Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province during the May Day holiday. 

She said she's not worried too much about coronavirus risks, as she has faith in the government's epidemic-prevention efforts to deal with the travel peak, although she will carry products like face masks and disinfectant. 

Many tourism sites in China are reportedly using special gear, such as artificial-intelligence body temperature monitors, to deal with potential risks brought by tourist flows. 

He Yuefeng, who owns several hostel villas near Huangshan Mountain in East China's Anhui Province, told the Global Times that one of his four villas has already been booked for the upcoming holidays. 

"I have confidence that the villas can be fully occupied during the holidays, and I believe the number of guests will see a rise compared with the Qingming Festival holiday," He said. 

Despite the rebound, experts stressed that domestic travel would still fall on a yearly basis during the May Day holiday, and that a full recovery is still far off for the coronavirus-battered country. 

Xu Xiaolei, marketing manager at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, predicted that the number of domestic trips during this year's May Day holiday will drop by 10-20 percent compared with same period last year. Last year's May Day holiday recorded about 195 million trips, according to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. 

"China's tourism recovery is going slower than we expected," Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of China Spring Tour, told the Global Times, adding that many domestic tour agencies are still banned from organizing trans-provincial trips or overseas routes. 

"I think it will take two to three years for the aviation industry to fully recover, and for tourism, the recovery will take even longer," she said. 

Zhang Lingyun, a professor at Beijing International Studies University, also predicted that domestic travel will suffer the biggest decline since 2000 during this year's May Day holiday, though he declined to give a detailed forecast.

"I think a tourism recovery is not as important as preventing another wave of the epidemic," he said. 

Industry sources and experts also said that compared with domestic travel, the outlook is totally gloomy for outbound travel this year. 

"I can't estimate when it will start to rebound. I don't see any gleam of hope now," Zhou said, adding that her company's outbound travel business has been "about zero" this year. 

Xu also said chances are small that outbound travel can restart this year, considering it will take some time for the global pandemic to be brought under control. 

Posted in: ECONOMY

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