BEIJING • Hundreds of millions in China hustled to enjoy their first major national holiday since the country beat its coronavirus outbreak, filling train stations and airports yesterday.
The Golden Week holiday marks the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and sees a massive annual movement of people trying to get home or take holidays.
But this year has added significance, with the crowds filling the concourses pointing to a country rebounding from the outbreak and parading the freedom to travel as a contrast to the lockdowns hitting much of the world.
"Normally, we would take a family holiday abroad, but this year we opted for a staycation," said Ms Niu Honglin from Shanghai.
She booked rooms in a boutique hotel near Shanghai Disneyland Park but quickly faced a problem of millions of extra tourists hunting for fun at home. "My daughter had to wait in line for nearly three hours to get on a ride," she said.
Domestic travel has sprung back to life and given the economy a boost after the virus shuttered businesses and scared away tourists following its emergence in Wuhan late last year. "People are travelling with a vengeance," said Beijing-based banker Huo Binxing, who is heading to Lhasa in Tibet.
"It's our first chance to unwind after such a stressful period."
Wuhan in central China is back in business, too, with visitors thronging to Yellow Crane Tower, a Taoist shrine, noted the country's biggest travel agency Ctrip.
But some have scrapped plans as the virus continues to seed anxiety.
Ms Ming Rui, from Beijing, axed a visit to coastal city Qingdao after two Covid-19 cases were reported there last week. "It was our first family trip this year but we cancelled because I got very nervous," said the fashion designer whose parents are in their 70s.
More than 600 million trips will be taken during the holiday, down 20 per cent from a year ago, Ctrip estimated, but they will still force the state railway to add 1,000 trains a day. Around 108 million railway trips are expected to be made during this holiday.
At Beijing's Capital Airport, thousands of passengers queued up with luggage and children in tow.
The travellers are likely to bring much-needed spending to far-flung parts of China. Last year, they spent US$9.5 billion (S$12.9 billion) during the Golden Week.
This year, many people are taking luxury holidays within China, travel operator Quanar reported, amid global travel restrictions. And the absence of their tourist dollars will leave countries in the region - from Thailand to Cambodia - wincing from the economic pain caused by the prolonged closure of borders.