China’s tourist sites swarmed during holiday despite Covid-19 risks

People walk along the Great Wall of China in Beijing, on Jan 25, 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The crushing demand underscores a rebound in holiday travel and consumption as people put Covid-19 worries behind them. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China’s most scenic destinations have been inundated during the Spring Festival holiday, as Beijing’s shift away from Covid-Zero spurred a travel frenzy despite the country’s ongoing Omicron outbreak. 

Almost 34,400 tourists visited the jagged mountain ranges of Huangshan in Anhui province on Jan 24, the highest daily figure during Chinese New Year since 2018, the area’s management group said on WeChat.

A national forest park in Hunan province had more than 60,000 sightseers the same day - a record high - with some claiming on social media that they were stuck on top of a mountain for hours. 

In Macau, visitors flocked to the Ruins of St Paul’s, stopping to take pictures on the steps of the former 17th century Catholic religious complex.

Police stood near crowd control barriers to help direct foot traffic and guide the flow of people through the narrow, cobblestone streets that surround the historic landmark.

While extreme weather in some regions exacerbated traffic conditions and further complicated travel, many were undaunted by those challenges or the risk of supercharging the world’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak.

Demand for hotels, guest houses and tickets to visit tourist attractions at the start of the holiday exceeded comparable figures in 2019, before the pandemic began, according to the online travel agency 

The government expects roughly 2.1 billion trips will be taken during the 40-day Spring Festival period, nearly twice as many as last year, according to Transport Vice-Minister Xu Chengguang.

The crushing demand underscores a rebound in holiday travel and consumption as people put Covid-19 worries behind them. 

The operator of Huangshan, a Unesco World Heritage site, had to redirect tourists onto different paths, it said on WeChat, after local media reported that some hikers got stuck in snowy weather.

The forest park in Hunan started admitting tourists in batches, among other measures to manage the traffic surge, according to its WeChat account. 

Consumption trends during Chinese New Year - the most important holiday in China, with hundreds of millions of people travelling home to see family - are being closely watched as a barometer of economic recovery in the world’s most populous country. 

The signs of a sizable rebound in China aren’t limited to travel destinations or a tourist frenzy.

The nation’s box office receipts soared during the holiday, exceeding 5 billion yuan (S$967.44 million) as of early Thursday, according to real-time data tracked by a movie ticketing service of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BLOOMBERG

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