Chinese tourists spend big during Golden Week

Tourists thronging a busy food street in the Wangfujing shopping and tourist district in Beijing on Oct 1. Despite a rocky economy, many cities and provinces across China reported higher tourist numbers and receipts.
Tourists thronging a busy food street in the Wangfujing shopping and tourist district in Beijing on Oct 1. Despite a rocky economy, many cities and provinces across China reported higher tourist numbers and receipts.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Expenditure set to hit record levels as many travel within country and abroad, despite fears over weaker economy

Chinese tourists are likely to have spent at record levels over the country's week-long National Day holiday, shrugging off the darkening outlook over its economy and the impact of a punishing stock market rout earlier in the year.

While country-wide figures have yet to be tallied, many cities and provinces across China, such as Beijing and Shandong, reported higher tourist numbers and receipts. Popular overseas destinations such as South Korea and Japan also enjoyed a boom from a flood of Chinese tourists, according to China's National Tourism Administration (NTA).


Travellers walking through the main hall of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Beijing, for instance, welcomed 11.5 million visitors, who splurged 8.3 billion yuan (S$1.8 billion) over the seven days that ended on Wednesday. During the annual holiday, known as the Golden Week, more than 750 million Chinese were estimated to have travelled.

Tourist spending in Beijing jumped 7.1 per cent from the previous year. This increased holiday spending pattern played out across China despite rising fears that the country's faltering growth - estimated at 7 per cent this year, its slowest pace in nearly 25 years - may cripple domestic consumption. A stock market collapse that began in mid-June, which has wiped trillions of yuan off the bourse, has also stoked fears of a sharper slowdown.


Travellers walking through Shanghai Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG 

North-eastern Jilin province, with attractions such as the Changbai mountain, recorded a 28.5 per cent rise in tourism spending to 5.9 billion yuan, while eastern Shandong province, which boasts world heritage site Mount Tai, enjoyed a 12.8 per cent gain to 39.2 billion yuan. Almost 30 million people were also reported to have visited China's 125 top attractions, generating ticket revenues of 1.6 billion yuan.

More Chinese also flocked overseas. Trips to South Korea, Japan and Thailand were "explosively popular" while those to the United States, Russia, France and Italy also "increased substantially", the NTA said in a Sunday report.


Chinese national flags are seen as tourists throng the Nanjing pedestrian road, a main shopping area, on the second day of the seven-day National Day holiday in Shanghai, China on Oct 2, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Factors, such as the weakening yen and Japan's recent free visa policy for Chinese cruise passengers, have boosted Japan's appeal, with state media reporting a doubling in Chinese visitor numbers. The Korea Trade Organisation also said last week that some 210,000 Chinese are expected to visit the country, up 30 per cent from last year.

Since new safety measures to prevent overcrowding were introduced this year, in the light of the fatal stampede in Shanghai last New Year's Eve, the chaos that had plagued famous tourist attractions in previous years has also been addressed, the NTA noted.


Travellers wait at airline check-in counters at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, on Sept 29, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG 

Under the guidelines introduced in April, all tourist hot spots have to declare their maximum capacities and take steps to slow the pace of visitors once they are 80 per cent full.

Newer trends have also emerged. This year, "red tourist attractions" - historical sites related to the communist revolution, such as Mao Zedong's birthplace of Shaoshan in central Hunan province - have risen in popularity, the NTA said.


A man walking past other travellers in the main hall of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, on Sept 29, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG 

Mr Song Ding, director of the tourism and real estate industry research centre of China Development Institute, told The Straits Times: "After 30 years of fast-paced reform and opening up, there is also a greater desire to reflect on the country's culture and history. Some people are also frustrated with societal problems, such as rising income inequality, and are curious about the old days."


Vehicles are seen stuck in a traffic jam near a toll station as people return home at the end of a week-long national day holiday, in Beijing, China, on Oct 6, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS


Tourists gathering in front of the Tiananmen Gate during China's National Day in Beijing, China, on Oct 1, 2015. PHOTO: EPA


Shoppers are reflected in glass panels of a shopping mall during China's National Day in Beijing, China, on Oct 1, 2015. PHOTO: EPA


Tourists gather in a narrow street, during China's National Day holiday in Beijing, China, on Oct 2, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'Chinese tourists spend big during Golden Week'. Print Edition | Subscribe