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Pent-up demand drives tourism resurgence over holiday

By Wang Keju Source: China Daily/Xinhua Updated: 2020-10-04


Visitors watch a dance performed in front of Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Thursday. The scenic area arranged traditional performances to welcome tourists from across the country eager to travel now that COVID-19 is controlled. [Hu Jiusi/For China Daily]

Fueled by pent-up travel demand and a holiday that's longer than usual, tourist sites and transportation systems across the country are busy again while regular epidemic control measures continue.

The country saw 97 million domestic tourist trips on Thursday-the first day of the eight-day National Day holiday. That was roughly 74 percent of the trips made during the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

It brought tourism revenue of 76.65 billion yuan ($11.29 billion), a recovery amounting to 68.9 percent of the revenue for the same period last year, the ministry said.

On Friday, a total of 108 million visits were made, with a total tourism revenue of 76.51 billion yuan, according to the ministry.

The newly surging tourist volume has put the country's transportation system under mounting pressure. China State Railway Group, the country's rail operator, said the system handled over 15 million train trips on Thursday, hitting a record high for daily railway passenger trips since the coronavirus outbreak began early this year.

For those who prefer planes, the Civil Aviation Administration of China estimated 14,941 passenger flights with some 1.67 million air trips on Thursday, almost up to the level as the same period last year.

Luo Qiang, a tourist from Chongqing, arrived in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, with family members on Thursday morning after driving for 10 hours. They braved drizzly weather to visit the city wall in the first stop of their six-day tour of the city.

At the wall, more than 1,000 tourists visited in the first hour and a half after opening on Thursday, said Cao Ling, spokeswoman for the Xi'an city wall scenic area.

Strict disinfection measures are being taken in all public areas, and the number of tourists is kept below 75 percent of the maximum capacity, she said.

To speed up the recovery of domestic tourism amid regular COVID-19 control, China further eased restrictions by raising the limit on daily reception numbers at scenic spots, theaters and performance venues to 75 percent of their maximum capacity, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in mid-September.

Booming travel demand has driven the speedy recovery of the country's tourism and consumption sectors.

Wu Ruoshan, a researcher with the tourism research center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the vibrant travel demand is also fueled by this year's longer holiday, as Mid-Autumn Festival, which also fell on Thursday, overlapped with the weeklong National Day holiday, giving people an extra day off.

"Tourist attractions, which remained idle for months due to the outbreak, are seeing people pour in these days, which will inject new growth momentum to the tourism sector and accelerate its recovery," he said.

The eight-day holiday is the country's first major vacation since the novel coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control in China, and the travel rush has posed challenges to the country's epidemic prevention and control efforts.

To safeguard public health, scenic spots have continued an online booking system to ensure tourists visit in staggered time slots.

At popular attractions, timely travel alerts are issued, and staff are working with multiple government departments to divert passenger flows as needed and prevent mass gatherings.

Many regular epidemic prevention requirements including frequent disinfection and body temperature checks are still strictly employed in an effort to protect people's health.

Xinhua contributed to this story.