Travel bookings soar ahead of May Day holidays as experts forecast a recovery to pre-COVID levels in 2019
Published: Apr 30, 2024 07:25 PM
Photo: Chen Xia/GT

Photo: Chen Xia/GT

China's May Day holidays, spanning five days from Wednesday to Sunday, are expected to witness a historic surge in travel activity. This expectation arises from the sell-out of ticket bookings across numerous tourist attractions and a surging volume of passenger trips, among other positive data points.

The ongoing boom in the tourism industry during the major holidays reflects a significant upgrade and recovery of domestic consumption, experts said. They predict that this year's May Day holidays may see the tourism industry recover to 2019 levels before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to China Railway Group, the national railway system is expected to transport 144 million passengers, averaging 18 million passengers per day. Rail transportation services for the May Day holidays officially commenced on Monday and will continue until May 6, spanning eight days in total.

Wednesday, or May 1, is expected to see the highest number of trips, with an estimated 21 million passengers set to travel in a single day. 

During a regular press conference held by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Monday, Guo Sheng, deputy director of the Highway Bureau of the MOT, said that preliminary forecasts indicate a significant increase in travel volume during the upcoming May Day holidays, with a high proportion of people choosing to travel by cars.

The policy of exempting tolls for small passenger vehicles on highways will continue to be implemented over the five-day holidays.

Moreover, the daily inter-regional passenger flow during the holiday period is expected to exceed 270 million passenger trips, surpassing levels seen during the same period in 2023 and 2019. The proportion of self-driving trips is expected to exceed 80 percent, Guo said.

On Monday, the rail network covering the Yangtze River Delta region, one of the most developed regions in China, facilitated more than 2.645 million passengers, an increase of nearly eight percent year-on-year. The railway company expects to see 3.18 million passenger trips on Tuesday, according to media reports.

Data from multiple online travel platforms indicate that the popularity of the holiday travel has continued from last year, potentially making this year's May Day holidays the busiest since the COVID-19 pandemic, experts predicted.

According to Tuniu, an online travel platform, group travel bookings indicate that domestic long-distance travel remains preferred by a larger number of tourists, constituting 46 percent of total trips. Fliggy, another domestic travel platform, revealed a surge in outbound travel bookings, with related service bookings experiencing robust growth of nearly 100 percent, building on last year's rapid rebound.

Tickets for many domestic major tourist attractions have already been sold out few days ahead of the holidays.

Taishan scenic area in East China's Shandong Province issued a reminder to tourists through its WeChat public account that as of Sunday, all night tickets for Taishan scenic area three days before the May Day holidays had been sold out and reservations had been suspended.

On Tuesday, the Panda valley scenic area of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding posted on its WeChat public account that tickets for the scenic area were sold out for Wednesday morning, all day on Thursday and Friday, as well as Saturday morning.

Some scenic spots have implemented measures such as controlling visitor flow and extending visiting hours to ensure a safe and enhanced experience for travelers.

For example, Huashan Scenic Spot issued a notice that during the holidays, the maximum daily number of visitors to Huashan Scenic Spot is limited to 30,000, of which group reservations cannot exceed 8,000 per day. Ticket sales will be suspended when the upper limit is reached.

China's tourism economy has maintained a rapid recovery since the beginning of this year.

On Tuesday, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a statement, announcing that based on the results of a domestic tourism sampling survey, in the first quarter of 2024, the number of domestic tourist trips reached 1.419 billion, an increase of 203 million compared to the same period last year, representing a year-on-year growth of 16.7 percent. Meanwhile, domestic tourists spent a total of 1.52 trillion yuan on travel, an increase of 0.22 trillion yuan compared to the previous year, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 17.0 percent.

This year's tourism sector during the May Day holidays is still at the point where pent-up demand is on the verge of recovery after three years of the pandemic, Wu Fenglin, director of the Planning and Leisure Research Institute, China Tourism Academy, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Since last year, the surge in demand for travel has been accompanied by an upgrade in new travel products, which has jointly contributed to creating a hot tourism market, Wu said.

"So far, the data reported ahead of the May Day holidays make me confident in the recovery of the domestic tourism market," Wu said, noting that three years following the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent industry recovery, there is a possibility that the overall performance of the tourism industry during this year's May Day holidays may mirror that of 2019, the biggest year on record.