Not all travel home during Spring Festival

Workers installing red lanterns ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year at a tourist attraction in Linyi, Shandong province, China, on Jan 31, 2018.

Beijing-based human resource director Qi Kedong, 45, is not going back to his rural hometown in Shandong this year.

In fact, he stopped returning home for Chinese New Year when his wife was pregnant with their son 14 years ago. It was too cold in his rural hometown where temperatures plunge below zero during winter.

It is now a tradition for his family of three to go travelling during the Chinese New Year holidays.

While on the road, he would call his relatives and send them greetings and electronic red packets via WeChat, the mobile messaging platform.

"Two years ago, when I went to Dubai, I made it a point to call all my relatives once I touched down at the airport on the first day of Chinese New Year," he said, adding that he would go back to visit them at other times of the year.

A report released by online travel agency Tongcheng and state-run China Communications News last month (December 2017) found that the majority of Chinese, seven in 10, will head home for family reunions during Chinese New Year.

Some 13 per cent said they would go travelling instead.

Experts observe the trend of more people using the week-long Chinese New Year holidays to travel with their families within China or overseas, since the practice of taking annual leave from work is still not common among employees.

Mr Liu Simin, vice-president of the tourism branch of the China Society for Futures Studies, said that domestic travel has become more diversified in recent years, with more people opting to visit places such as southwestern Yunnan and Sichuan provinces other than the traditional hotspots of Hainan, Guangdong and Fujian in the south as well as the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang in the northeast.

And many are attracted to the warmth and sunshine in the tropics and the southern hemisphere during the Chinese New Year period.

"For those who like beach holidays, going to Vietnam is cheaper than Sanya (in Hainan)," Mr Liu said.

Retired bank employee Zhan Jianming, 62, also prefers to travel with their families during the long holiday.

"I plan to continue travelling during the festive period until I turn 70," said

Mr Zhan, a native Beijinger, would be in Fuzhou, the capital of southern Fujian province until the third day of Chinese New Year.

"The flights back to home will be cheaper then, and the roads in Beijing will not be congested. I will visit my friends and relatives then," he added.

A recent report by Ctrip, China's largest online travel agency, said that far-flung and expensive tourism destinations like Antarctica have become more popular among Chinese tourists.

Antarctica, Argentina, Brazil, Tahiti, Norway, Tanzania, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand and Finland have been listed as the 10 most expensive destinations for the coming vacation, according to the report.

In those spots, most travellers are families and couples, Ctrip said, with the average spending for a family now topping 100,000 yuan (S$20,873). Antarctica, the most expensive destination, will cost more than 160,000 yuan per person.

On average, Chinese tourists are expected to spend 9,500 yuan per person during their travels abroad during the upcoming Spring Festival break.

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