Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Chinese travellers give Lunar Year of the Dragon a fiery start

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Chinese travellers are back on the move for the festive season, with the number of trips around the country up by more than a quarter on the eve of the biggest holiday of the year.

Domestic passenger traffic on Friday, Lunar New Year’s Eve, was up by 26.7 per cent compared with the same time last year, with 195.24 million trips taken across the transport system, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The bulk of the traffic was on the highways, with more than 184 million trips made on Friday. Rail traffic roughly doubled to 8.2 million trips, while the number of people taking flights was up by nearly 1.5 times, rising by 137.7 per cent to 1.8 million, the report said.

Ctrip, China’s biggest travel company, reported higher demand for transport on Saturday as well. It said ticket orders more than doubled year on year to exceed pre-pandemic levels, during the start of the 2019 Lunar New Year, Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper reported.

Warmer destinations in the south such as Hainan, Guangdong and Yunnan provinces were popular choices among holidaymakers from China’s colder northern regions, while southerners were keen to head north to snowy destinations, according to the report.

Ctrip was quoted as saying that bookings for Harbin in Heilongjiang province, a trending travel destination and home of the renowned ice festival, rose by 40 per cent from the first day of the last Lunar New Year.

Orders for attraction and sightseeing tickets on Ctrip also rose by 300 per cent from the same day last year, the first Lunar New Year after China lifted its strict zero-Covid travel restrictions.

Tourism booms for China’s ice sculpture city Harbin in post-Covid revival

Many of its Lunar New Year’s Eve “meal and hotel room” packages were also sold out, the site said. It added that requests for pet-friendly accommodation were up by 72 per cent from last year and bookings for private hot spring hotel rooms had risen by 46 per cent.

Online booking service Tongcheng Travel said it registered both a “volume and price increase” for domestic flights, The Paper reported.

Tickets cost nearly 1,000 yuan (US$140) on average, about 20 per cent higher than before the holiday season – also called Spring Festival in China – while the number of bookings for popular routes increased by 77 per cent from last year, the company said.

Blizzards and freezing rain had earlier sparked warnings that this Lunar New Year holiday could be the most “complex” since 2008. But the China Weather Network forecast on Saturday that the worst of the conditions had passed and temperatures were expected to rise in most parts of the country.

National immigration authorities have predicted that customs clearances over the Spring Festival will be about the same as the 2019 festive season. But Ctrip said on Saturday that its outbound bookings were already higher than the pre-pandemic year.

Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore were among the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, with travel orders on Ctrip increasing by 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. All three countries have introduced mutual visa-free agreements with China.

Travel bookings for Belt and Road Initiative nations also rose, with orders for tickets to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan up by more than half compared to the same period in 2019, The Paper reported.

On Lunar New Year’s Eve, landmarks across the world joined in on the festivities, with the London Eye, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House and Tokyo Tower lighting up red to ring in the Year of the Dragon.

Traditional Chinese dragon dancers perform in front of the London Eye, lit up in red to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Photo: Xinhua

In China, the annual Spring Festival Gala TV gala set a live broadcast record, with 1.689 billion total views for the event, according to state broadcaster CGTN.

At the Chinese box office, comedy-drama Pegasus 2 led the pack with its premiere on Saturday, Xinhua reported, citing data from the China Movie Data Information Network.

The film earned 416.23 million yuan on Saturday while Chinese comedy YOLO was next, grossing 410.54 million yuan.

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