Decision to extend holiday period to four days is expected to trigger 150 million extra trips to favourite domestic and foreign destinations.
Chinese tourists are set for an unexpected tourism bonanza after the government announced on Friday that the May Day public holiday would be extended to four days.
The move surprised many because mainland China’s previous holiday plan for the year, released in December, indicated that only May 1, a Wednesday, would be a public holiday.
But the decision to extend the Labour Day holiday schedule until Saturday May 4 has left the travel industry predicting that around 150 million trips will be taken at home or abroad.
However, there is a price to be paid for the “extra” holiday as two Sundays – April 28 and May 5 – have now been designated as working days to make up for the lost time.
The announcement also prompted a race to make travel plans for the new holiday, with demand likely to surge at some of the most popular destinations both at home and abroad, potentially pushing up the price of flights and hotels.
Within two hours of the announcement of the new holiday, the country’s leading tourism website Ctrip saw searches for international tickets rising to five times the level seen in the same period last week.
The company said it expected to see a surge in demand for trips to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
It expects the top destinations for holiday makers will be Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, the United States and Italy.
The number of ticket searches for popular domestic destinations such as Chengdu, Sanya, Hangzhou, Kunming also increased by more than sevenfold.
Overall it estimated there will be about 150 million trips at home and abroad during this holiday period, based on the patterns seen during previous three or four-day public holidays.
Another tour website lvmama.com told Shanghai Youth Daily that the searches for tours around May 1 had increased by 330 per cent within two hours of the announcement.
He Jianmin, a professor of tourism at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said Premier Li Keqiang had announced plans to boost the tourist industry last year and the longer holiday would help in that regard.
“The longer holiday can boost domestic demand and also let people enjoy life under the warm spring sunshine,” He told Jiefang Daily.
Peng Liang, an analyst from Ctrip Travel & Tourism Data Research Centre, said the longer holiday would make people more willing to travel further from home.
“Extending holidays will largely boost people’s willingness to travel,” said Peng.
Chinese tourists mainly travel during Lunar New Year and the so-called “Golden Week” in early October, both seven-day holidays.
But this concentration can lead to overcrowding at popular destinations and puts a strain on the travel system, all of which can contribute to a less pleasant experience for the tourists.
“More holidays can help relieve these pressures and balance the tourism industry’s peak and cold seasons,” said Peng.
Tracy Yang, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Shanghai, said she was now planning a family holiday over May Day, but has yet to pick a destination.
“It’s good to have another long holiday so that I can travel,” she said. “But I am a bit concerned flight and hotels prices will go up and I hope I won’t see too many people flocking to tourist spots.”
The new arrangements caused something of a stir online, with reports on the change attracting 480 million page views and 210,000 comments on the social media platform Weibo within six hours of the announcement.
One post that attracted 26,000 likes was by a user who said that the extended holiday would be better than a one-day one, which would just be a “boring day spent at home doing nothing”.
But not everyone was happy with the new arrangements.
Another Weibo user complained that he had been planning to get married on April 28 based on the old holiday schedule.
“With just one month to go, you tell me that April 28 is a working day. Isn’t the state authority playing me?” he wrote.
*This article was originally published by the much-respected South China Morning Post