China’s traditional Lantern Festival to extend holiday spending fever, set to lift quarterly economic indicators
Published: Feb 24, 2024 12:02 AM
People perform a dragon dance in Liulong Ancient Town to welcome the Lantern Festival in Bijie, Southwest China's Guizhou Province on February 18, 2024. Photo: VCG

People perform a dragon dance in Liulong Ancient Town to welcome the Lantern Festival in Bijie, Southwest China's Guizhou Province on February 18, 2024. Photo: VCG

Saturday marks China's traditional Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first lunar month of the Year of the Dragon. On the day that concludes the two-week-celebration of the Chinese New Year, the nation's consumption performance is set to prolong the buying fever seen in the Spring Festival holidays.

The consumption vitality at the beginning of the year across sectors such as retail, tourism and entertainment underscored the recovery of the national economy, experts noted, and the positive result will be reflected in the official statistics at the end of the first quarter of 2024. 

A Beijing resident surnamed Huo told the Global Times on Friday that her family saw long queues at stores to buy yuanxiao, a festive sweet-favored glutinous rice ball, to celebrate the Lantern Festival. 

"Due to the extremely high demand for yuanxiao around the festival, some popular stores in Beijing sold out their daily inventory in just one morning," said a Beijing resident surnamed Li, noting that there were a lot of customers queuing in front of the store from early morning.

A staff member from a food store in Beijing said that the daily sales volume of yuanxiao reached 10,000 to 15,000 kilograms in recent days. The largest sales volume reached 40,000 kilograms and customers had to wait in line for 40 minutes, local media outlet Beijing Business Today reported.

As the Lantern Festival is not a holiday but falls on a weekend, catering and entertainment sectors are expected to receive large number of consumers for gatherings of family and friends, Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Online retail platform Meituan told the Global Times that as of Wednesday, the number of restaurants launching yuanxiao-themed set menus increased by 55 percent week-on-week, and the volume of related orders surged by over 165 percent. 

"The surging pre-order volume for restaurants, as well as the high customer volume at cinemas and shopping malls across the country, proves that national consumption is still running at a high level," said Zhang. 

During the eight-day Spring Festival holidays, China witnessed record figures for domestic travel and spending, with both figures largely exceeding those of the same period in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on February 18, a total of 474 million domestic trips were made during the eight-day holiday, up 34.3 percent year-on-year, and total domestic tourism spending jumped by 47.3 percent year-on-year to about 632.69 billion yuan ($87.91 billion). 

Multiple travel hubs, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Xishuangbanna Railway Station in Southwest China's Yunnan Province all reported new record on daily passenger volume during the holidays.

China's total box office also reached an 8.034-billion-yuan record during the holiday, according to box office tracker Dengta. Notably, the average film ticket price fell below 50 yuan from the 52.3 yuan in the 2023 Spring Festival holidays, indicating that more people were willing to spend money on the entertainment sector.

As the Spring Festival holidays in 2023 and 2024 fall in January and February respectively due to the lunar calendar, some year-on-year data may not be useful as a reference, Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade told the Global Times on Friday, while noting that the economic operation data for the first quarter of 2024 will see growth based on the current momentum and will provide a precise projection for China's economy operations.

The spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) He Yadong said in a regular press conference held on Thursday that China has seen a boom in consumption during the Spring Festival holidays, making a good start to 2024. The MOFCOM vowed to further organize a series of consumption promotion activities and fully implement measures to expand consumption.

"Consumption is set to contribute more to economic growth in the first quarter of 2024 thanks to a series of festivals, as we can see the consumer price is driven up by social consumption demand, and the CPI and PPI of the first quarter of 2024 will record upsurges," said Li.