Chinese Travel Rebounds During Holiday While Spending Still Lags

Travel and consumption in China rebounded over the three-day weekend, the first national holiday since the government relaxed travel restrictions after controlling most new coronavirus outbreaks.

Residents made 102 million domestic trips over the three-day ‘Tomb-Sweeping’ holiday, up 145% from the same period last year when the country was still reeling from the initial pandemic outbreak. Travel was 95% of the level in 2019, before the pandemic, according to a government statement.

Despite the recovery, spending was still well down, with tourism revenue reaching 27.2 billion yuan ($4.2 billion), or about 57% of the level in 2019. The data underscores just how reticent consumers are to spend, with private spending still lagging in the economy even as the industrial, export and real-estate sectors rebound.

“The figures show that China’s domestic tourism market has basically recovered, and people feel confident about the containment of the virus,” said Veronica Wang, a partner at retail industry consultancy OC&C Strategy Consultants. The slower rebound in revenue was partly due to steep discounts offered by hotels and service providers, she added.

The Qingming holiday is a traditional festival during which families travel back to their home towns to gather and pay their respects at their ancestors’ tombs. Many people put off traveling home during the Lunar New Year in February after Covid-19 outbreaks in Beijing and the adjacent Hebei province in January led to barriers to travel.

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Hubei province, the original epicenter of the pandemic, reported 5.7 billion yuan in tourism revenue, 62% of 2019’s level, according to a statement by the local culture and tourism bureau. Shoppers in Shanghai spent 25.7 billion yuan between April 2 and April 4, a 6% improvement from 2019, local media reported.

Box office revenue climbed to a record 814 million yuan, surpassing the 2019 tally of 695 million yuan, according to Chinese media reports. The newly released action blockbuster “Godzilla vs. Kong” raked in $137 million in the biggest foreign opening in China in at least 15 months.

The upcoming five-day Labor Day holiday at the beginning of May will be the next key indicator of the strength of tourism and consumption’s recovery, Wang said. “Depending on the virus control conditions, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Labor Day holiday data surpasses that of 2019.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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