China’s travel surge continues as Dragon Boat Festival expected to further stimulate domestic consumption
Published: Jun 06, 2024 08:03 PM

A shopping mall in downtown Shanghai displays the logo of the Shanghai 5.5 Shopping Festival to attract shoppers on April 27, 2024. Photo: Qi Xijia/GT

A shopping mall in downtown Shanghai displays the logo of the Shanghai 5.5 Shopping Festival to attract shoppers on April 27, 2024. Photo: Qi Xijia/GT

China's tourism sector is poised for another travel peak during the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival and summer vacation period, following the resurgence in tourist numbers seen during the May Day holidays. This trend highlights the enduring vitality of China's domestic consumption, laying the groundwork for a full economic recovery this year, experts and industry insiders said.

Tourism agencies and online travel platforms have witnessed a surge in bookings as the traditional festival approaches.

Meituan, China's leading online retail platform, reported a nearly 70 percent year-on-year increase in pre-bookings for cultural and tourism activities during the holidays, with short-distance destinations gaining popularity, according to the platform's most recent data.

Data from the travel platform Fliggy showed that this year's Dragon Boat Festival has seen higher per capita booking volumes for both domestic and outbound travel compared to the previous year, with some lesser-known destinations across the country emerging as the fastest-growing travel hotspots. Bookings for overseas products such as cruises, car rentals, and private tours have also doubled in volume.

The homestay booking platform Tujia informed the Global Times on Thursday that bookings for the three-day holiday period have surged by 40 percent year-on-year. Searches for homestays featuring folk activities have risen by 50 percent month-on-month, with bookings doubling year-on-year. 

Cheng Xin, a sales consultant at the travel agency UTour Group Co, told the Global Times on Thursday that there has been a notable uptick in both inquiries and bookings ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival compared to the May Day holidays.

"Domestic group tour bookings have risen by over 10 percent, while outbound group tour bookings have surged by more than 15 percent," she said.

Cheng highlighted the surge in travel inquiries, attributing it to the approaching summer holidays which follow the Dragon Boat Festival, prompting many consumers to proactively plan their travel schedules ahead of time. Cheng expected the travel surge will extend into the second half of the year.

China's tourism sector posted robust growth during the May Day holidays. The country recorded 295 million domestic trips nationwide, marking a 7.6 percent increase year-on-year and a 28.2 percent surge from pre-Covid levels in 2019. Tourism revenue totaled 166.89 billion yuan ($23.1 billion), up 12.7 percent from the previous year and 13.5 percent from 2019, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

"The improvement of people's living standards and the upgrading of their consumption habits have greatly propelled the tourism growth," Li Chang'an, a professor from the Academy of China Open Economy Studies of the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Thursday.

With the government's various facilitation measures for travel and the rapid infrastructure advancement, particularly in high-tech sectors, consumers will embrace a wider range of travel products to choose from, showcasing the vast untapped potential in the sector, Li said, adding that "the continuous travel boom will inject more vitality and stronger momentum into the country's domestic consumption."

During the three-day holiday, flexible and convenient car rental self-driving trips have emerged as the top choice for many holidaymakers. Data from reveals that the platform has experienced a 260 percent year-on-year surge in domestic car rental self-driving bookings. 92 percent of travelers prefer short-distance self-driving trips, with intra-provincial travel also gaining popularity.

Industry insiders noted the emergence of various new travel trends has given ordinary people more options, and is expected to drive accelerated consumption expansion and enhance the quality of local services, thus laying a solid foundation for the upcoming peak season in the cultural and tourism industry across various regions.