More in China going overseas during CNY

While many parts of China, such Ditan Park in Beijing (above), are being decked out in festive colours for the Spring Festival, many Chinese families, such as that of IT executive You Lan, 42, are choosing to spend Chinese New Year abroad this year.
While many parts of China, such Ditan Park in Beijing (above), are being decked out in festive colours for the Spring Festival, many Chinese families, such as that of IT executive You Lan, 42, are choosing to spend Chinese New Year abroad this year. Ms You, her parents and two daughters are in Japan for a 10-day trip, and visiting places like Tokyo's Shinjuku shopping district.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Many can now afford to travel; interest in festivities also waning

For the first time in her life, IT executive You Lan is not spending Chinese New Year in China.

To "enjoy the Spring Festival in a different way", the single mother said she decided to take her parents and two daughters to Japan for 10 days, and take in the sights in Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto.

"My children love Japanese manga and we've heard many good things about Japan from our friends," Ms You, 42, told The Straits Times last week.

"Besides, going home from Beijing is so much trouble during this time of the year because it's hard to get tickets. It's actually easier to travel abroad," she said.

Indeed, while thousands of people heading back to their villages were stranded in Chinese train stations because of bad weather the past week, the Sichuan native and her family were in the Tokyo shopping district of Shinjuku, where they also saw many other visitors from China.


While many parts of China, such Ditan Park in Beijing, are being decked out in festive colours for the Spring Festival, many Chinese families (above), such as that of IT executive You Lan (second from right), 42, are choosing to spend Chinese New Year abroad this year. Ms You, her parents and two daughters are in Japan for a 10-day trip, and visiting places like Tokyo's Shinjuku shopping district. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS YOU LAN.

With better flight connectivity, more relaxed visa regulations and the importance of traditional festivals on the wane, Chinese tourists are expected to travel overseas in record numbers this Chinese New Year, said tour agents and officials.

They estimated that more than six million people will go abroad during this year's Spring Festival, up from the 5.2 million last year, which was also a record.

Many Chinese who travel during this period said their limited annual leave - as few as five days a year for some - is one reason for ditching tradition for travel aspirations.

NEW YEAR NOTHING SPECIAL

As kids, we used to look forward to it because we could feast and wear new clothes, but we can do that every day now.

INSURANCE AGENT ZHAO TONG, who is spending five days in South Korea, on why Chinese New Year no longer holds the significance it used to for many people According to bookings made on Ctrip, eight of the top 10 Chinese New Year holiday destinations are in Asia. They include Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

"Honestly, if I want to go abroad with my family, this is one of the few chances I have," said human resource executive Li Zhuo, 39, who will be travelling to Bangkok with his wife and son.

And while the economy is not growing as fast as it used to, the average spending power of the Chinese is still increasing.

The yuan has also strengthened overall against regional currencies in the last two years, despite the much-publicised devaluations against the United States dollar.

"The growing affluence is leading more Chinese to spend time and money overseas," said a spokesman for popular travel website Ctrip.

According to bookings made on Ctrip, eight of the top 10 Chinese New Year holiday destinations are in Asia. They include Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

The trend is further buoyed by visa relaxations last year by countries such as Japan, Australia and Britain, which either extended the period of visa validity, or made it easier to apply for them.

Increased connectivity has also fuelled a surge in tourist numbers. New Zealand tourism officials, for instance, are expecting around 70,000 to 75,000 Chinese tourists during this year's Spring Festival, a 35 per cent increase from the previous Spring Festival periods, after airlines like China Southern recently began offering direct flights to Christchurch.

While some people are lamenting the travel trend as a sign of weakened family bonds and traditions, insurance agent Zhao Tong, who is spending five days in South Korea, said Chinese New Year no longer holds the significance it used to for many people.

"As kids, we used to look forward to it because we could feast and wear new clothes, but we can do that every day now," said Ms Zhao, who is in her 40s.

"The festive mood may still be present in rural areas, but in the big cities, it's gone."

  • Additional reporting by Lina Miao
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'More in China going overseas during CNY'. Print Edition | Subscribe