Holiday travel and box office performance expected to surge: experts
Published: Apr 28, 2024 10:42 PM
Pingyao Ancient City, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in Northwest China's Shanxi Province Photo: VCG

Pingyao Ancient City, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in North China's Shanxi Province Photo: VCG

As China's May Day holidays approach, experts anticipate a surge in travel and a promising box office performance, driven by a combination of factors including strong demand, diverse cultural offerings, and a robust lineup of films.

The five-day holidays, spanning from May 1 to May 5 this year, is expected to see a flourishing domestic tourism scene, spurred by a multitude of attractions and events across the nation.

In the sector of cinema, this year's May Day holidays lineup boasts a total of nine films, making it one of the most packed schedules in recent years.

"Both the cultural and tourism market and box office revenue will remain stable or slightly exceed 2023 figures," Sun Jiasha, an associate researcher at the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Cultural and tourism markets heat up

On April 16, China's online leading travel agency Ctrip released the 2024 May Day tourism trends insight report, showing that domestic long-haul travel bookings account for over half of the total, with notable performance in small cities.

Looking at the overall booking situation, top 10 popular destinations for the holidays include Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Nanjing, Xi'an, Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Changsha.

Moreover, a multitude of concerts, music festivals, and sports events are set to become focal points for holiday travelers. Pre-holiday bookings for performances in Shanghai have soared, with theaters like the Shanghai Grand Theatre experiencing a surge in hotel bookings in the vicinity.

Zhong Yicong, program manager at the Theatre, said that all three of their theaters will be hosting performances during the holiday period, with theatrical productions dominating the lineup.

"There will be more than 9,000 audience members to watch the performances in our theater throughout the holidays," Zhong added.

Meanwhile, sports enthusiasts are gearing up for the 2024 Thomas Cup and Uber Cup badminton finals, which kicked off in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on Saturday.

Over the nine days from April 27 to May 5, which coincides partly with the May Day holiday, 32 teams from 20 countries and regions will compete in Chengdu, attracting a large number of out-of-town spectators.

As of April 26, the organizing committee had already sold over 50,000 tickets, with more than 60 percent of ticket buyers being from Sichuan Province, while 38 percent were from other provinces within China, and close to 2 percent were international audience.

With many domestic tourist attractions gearing up for peak visitation during the holiday period, tailored services and diverse cultural experiences are being rolled out to enhance the visitor experience.

For instance, Pingyao Ancient City, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in North China's Shanxi Province, has introduced various immersive experiences such as the 3D light show, a technology-driven art exhibition at a local art museum, a large-scale immersive theater production titled "Rediscovering Pingyao," and the night tour in the city.

According to statistics from the local tourism bureau, the daily average tourist flow in the site is expected to reach around 80,000 during the May Day holidays, with a total visitor volume exceeding 400,000 over the five-day period.

In Tangshan, North China's Hebei Province, an outdoor live show, blending cutting-edge stage audiovisual technology with a large curved screen, mechanized stage, cyberpunk-style scenes, and the traditional Chinese craft of casting iron flowers, will be performed every night during the holiday period.

"These innovative immersive cultural and tourism experiences introduced across various regions reflect ongoing efforts to deepen the integration of culture and tourism," Sun said.

"Unlike traditional tourism models, these services they provide not only prioritize sightseeing but also focus on enhancing visitors' experiences and sensations."

This year's May Day holidays also usher in a rise in the popularity of "micro vacations" and "micro trips," with more travelers opting to explore smaller cities.

Data from Ctrip showed hotel bookings in county-level markets have increased by 68 percent compared to the same period in 2023, while bookings for scenic area tickets have surged by 151 percent.

Counties such as Pingtan in Fujian, Yangshuo in Guangxi, Anji in Zhejiang, Wuyuan in Jiangxi, Zhengding in Hebei, Shangri-La in Yunnan, and Dunhuang in Gansu have emerged as popular destinations for county-level tourism.

Posters of the Twilight of the Warriors: Walled (left) and <em>Nothing Can't Be Undone by A Hotpot</em> Photo: VCG

Posters of the Twilight of the Warriors: Walled (left) and Nothing Can't Be Undone by A Hotpot Photo: VCG

Promising box office

Animated films are expected to take center stage in this year's May Day holidays lineup, which boasts a total of nine films.

Renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's latest film The Boy and the Heron topped the April box office charts in China. Riding on this trend, three animated films, including Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, the Japanese animated film Spy x Family Code: White, and the domestically produced GG Bond: Interstellar Mission, comprise one-third of the total film lineup for the May Day holiday.

In addition to animation, live-action films with strong casts are also vying for audience attention. From action-packed thrillers like Formed Police Unit to comedies such as Nothing Can't Be Undone by A Hotpot and The Last Frenzy, these films cater to diverse audience demographics, promising a competitive box office showdown.

As of April 27, pre-sales for this year's May Day holidays films have already surpassed 100 million yuan, with Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In, Formed Police Unit, and Spy x Family Code: White leading the pack.

It's worth noting that there will be no Hollywood imports in this year's May Day lineup as The Fall Guy, which was scheduled to be originally released during the holidays, has been postponed.

"This year's May Day box office market will be mainly led by domestic films. Despite the absence of Hollywood releases and a less diverse lineup, the quality improvement of domestic films in recent years suggests that this year's box office during the May Day holidays may be comparable to or slightly higher than 2023's," Sun noted.

The May Day box office in 2021 set a historic record of 1.67 billion yuan, while the box office in 2019 and 2023 remained at around 1.5 billion yuan.