BEIJING • China saw a significant increase in train journeys during last week's National Day holidays as high-speed rail transforms the face of travel in the country.
During the peak travel period from Sept 28 to last Friday, more than 108 million passengers made train journeys, up 9.7 per cent year on year, according to the China Railway Corporation.
During the 10-day travel rush, the railway authorities put an extra 1,000 trains, including about 800 high-speed bullet trains, into service to cope with the demand.
Bullet trains in China transported 54.09 million passengers during the holiday period, an increase of 24.6 per cent year on year.
China is now home to the world's longest network of high-speed rail at 20,000km, with the opening last month of a high-speed railway linking Zhengzhou in central Henan province with Xuzhou in eastern Jiangsu province.
The 360km line connects high-speed railway in the west with two major north-south lines. The travel time between Xi'an and Shanghai has been cut to six hours from nearly 11 hours.
Setting gleaming milestones
TOURISTS ON THE GO
1999: The first National Day holiday saw 28 million Chinese travelling around the country.
2016: During Golden Week, 593 million tourists visited travel destinations across China - up 12.8 per cent year on year.
HOW MUCH THEY SPENT
1999: 14.1 billion yuan (S$2.9 billion)
2016: 482.2 billion yuan, up 14.4 per cent year on year
1999: Most people paid for their expenditure in cash.
2016: About 40 million used Alipay, an online payment platform, on their phones.
• The week-long National Day holiday was launched in 1999.
"With the high-speed trains, more train trips between different places are made," said Mr Lin Yu, who works in a local tourism bureau in Fujian province.
Airlines also saw a surge with the number of passengers reaching 9.96 million in the past week, up 11.6 per cent year on year, according to the railway and civil aviation authorities.
Chinese tourists, according to latest reports, continue to shun package tours in favour of independent travel. Around 2.34 billion Chinese - or 58.5 per cent of total tourists - chose self-guided tours last year. The China Tourism Academy estimated that the numbers will reach 5.8 billion, accounting for 70 per cent of the domestic tourists, by 2021.
Cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou remain the favourite locations for domestic travellers, although attractions in provinces along the One Belt and One Road Initiative received more visitors this year.
China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region saw its tourist visits rise by 21.49 per cent year on year while tourist spending in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region rose 42 per cent year on year.
Among overseas travel destinations, visits to Russia rose by over 103 per cent, making it the third most popular overseas destination for Chinese tourists behind South Korea and Japan, reported the Global Times.
Visa-free policies also attracted more Chinese tourists to lesser known destinations such as Morocco, Tonga and Tunisia.
Thailand, among the top three destinations for Chinese travellers this year, reported a sharp drop in numbers last week after a police crackdown on Thai operators of cheap package tours.
Travel experts say the new generation of Chinese travellers is more adventurous and wants to experience a new culture.
"The younger travellers go out and are a lot more experimental. They do not have the inhibitions of their parents," said Ms Amrita Banta, managing director at Agility Research and Strategy based in Singapore.
The mystic Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and Mexico's ancient ruins were also expected to be top destinations last week, while 30 per cent of visitors to Cambodia's famed Angkor heritage site have come from China this year.
XINHUA, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS