BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The National Day long holiday in China, which ended on Sunday (Oct 8), has seen a record-high number of trips made, and that has inspired big changes in the way people travel around the country.
Statistics from the China National Tourism Administration show that 705 million trips were made during the eight-day National Day holiday this year, 663 million of them in the first seven days, an increase of 12 per cent from the seven-day holiday last year.
Five years ago, 428 million trips were taken during the seven-day holiday.
This year's National Day holiday ran from Oct 1 to 8, one day more than the usual holiday period dubbed the Golden Week. The extra day was given to include the Mid-Autumn Festival which fell on Oct 4 this year.
The greater number of trips is not the only difference seen this year - travellers have embraced new travel options such as high-speed rail and shared bicycles.
Rail travel, particularly high-speed trains, has enabled more people to travel during the holiday. Estimates from China Railway, the national rail operator, showed that about 40 per cent of trips during the holiday were made by train. That included trips on the Fuxing, the high-speed train developed by China that was put into operation in June, which travels at speeds of up to 350kmh.
In addition, travellers in China also used shared bicycles more frequently during the holiday, which added convenience in urban areas and helped the environment.
As of the end of July, more than 16 million bikes will have been put into operation nationwide. According to Ofo, one of the major bike-sharing companies, the usage frequency of its bikes increased by 15 per cent during the National Day holiday. Carbon emissions were reduced by about 78,000 tonnes, it said.
Ms Zhang Min, a Beijing resident who travelled to Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, said shared bikes helped her when she was sightseeing in the city.
"It's really comfortable to ride a bike and appreciate the scenery in the mild autumn weather, not to mention that I don't have to call an expensive taxi or wait for the always-crowded bus," she said.
Road trips have also become popular, thanks to a policy on expressway charges during public holidays. The policy, which started during the 2012 National Day holiday, made it cheaper and more convenient for people taking road trips.
Mr Yang Pei, 46, a resident of Dezhou, Shandong province, took his wife and daughter on a road trip to Tianjin during the long holiday this year.
On other days, a road trip between his home town and the North China municipality would cost 210 yuan (S$40) in toll charges on the expressways.
"With the 'free pass' policy on holidays, our only cost during this trip is petrol, which is about 300 yuan," he said. "It's very economical because travelling by high-speed train would cost a family of three twice as much."